These are outrageously overdue. Capsule reviews of my June reads. And there were a lot of ’em…
When a mysterious object crashes into the waters off the coast of Lagos, the lives of three strangers are forever changed as they become intermediaries between humanity and an alien race. A mix of scifi, magic, superheroes and Nigerian folklore. It’s certainly unique and an interesting study of Nigerian culture and society, but there’s little subtlety to the writing. It’s all surface with no real depth to the individual scenes and characters. At times, it feels like you’re reading an extremely long fable.
A seemingly unstoppable hundred mile-wide A.I. mining probe is headed towards Earth and the planet’s salvation lies in Malise, a broken combat veteran addicted to military hardware. Cyberpunk cool and incredibly confusing. If you’re able to slog through the first half of the book, things will come together for you at the end.
THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY by Jack Trevor Story
Well, they certainly don’t make ’em like they used to. And, sometimes, with good reason. Several people come across a body on the outskirts of a small English town and, as each assumes responsibility for the death, hilarity (?) ensues. Mired in silly improbabilities.
WILDWOOD (WILDWOOD CHRONICLES #1) by Colin Melot and Carson Ellis
When her baby brother is spirited away by crows, 12 year old Pru and her nerdy sidekick, Curtis, embark on a grand adventure in The Impassible Wilderness (located somewhere in Portland). Spirited and enjoyable but doesn’t quite attain the heights of Harry Potter or Series of Unfortunate Events.
THE SERPENT OF VENICE by Christopher Moore
The sequel to Moore’s Fool is a bit of Othello, a touch of The Merchant of Venice, a dash of Poe’s Cask of the Amontillado, and a hell of a lot of fun. The rascal fool, Pocket, runs afoul of three dangerous enemies who drug, then entomb him alive. He makes good his escape and seeks revenge, but his plans are both helped and hindered by Othello the Moor of Venice, Shylock a Jewish money-lender, a mysterious sea serpent – and others.
THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY by John Hornor Jacobs
A promising start is wasted in this tale about an introverted juvenile delinquent with special abilities who piques the interest of some very powerful, very dangerous people. The opening section that centers on the juvenile detention center is terrific, but when the action shifts away from the facility, the narrative devolves into all-too familiar territory.
The sequel to Ringu (The Ring) offers an engaging development to the familiar mystery as well as an interesting exploration of the “science” behind the curse but, inevitably, it all gets bogged down in the technical details.
AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE (VOL. 1: ESCAPE FROM RIVERDALE) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
Archie Andrews and the gang from Riverdale face a zombie apocalypse when their high school dance is crashed by the undead, forcing them to take refuge at Lodge Manor. Surprisingly dark, this grim take on the hitherto silly comic is shockingly effective. Right up there with The Walking Dead and World War Z.
A young, St. Louis orphan is taken under the wing of a charming old Svengali who promises to teach him how to fly. Of course learning to fly is a long and laborious process and, in the four years under Yehudi’s tutelage, young Walt develops a familial bond with the old man and a couple of the other colorful characters who make up his entourage. Eventually, Yehudi does teach Walt how to fly and they take their act on the road, wowing crowds across America and learning valuable, often difficult, life lessons along the way. Auster does a marvelous job immersing the readers in this 1920’s setting, and his well-drawn characters are alternately amusing, frustrating, and touching. At times, the story walks that fine line between fantasy and reality and it’s a tough balancing act to pull off. By book’s end, I’m not wholly convinced Auster was wholly successful.
One of the scariest “vampire” novels I’ve read, this book gets off to a resounding start, featuring some compelling characters and a horrifying contemporary scenario involving a viral outbreak and the government’s inability to contain it. Then, we jump forward in time and the story becomes a cross between Attack on Titan and The Walking Dead, with less interesting characters and a not quite as compelling narrative. It’s still post-apocalyptic fun with plenty of scares, but it pales in comparison to that riveting opening section. It also goes on a little too long.
THE ADJACENT by Christopher Priest
Hmmm. I loved Christopher Priest’s The Inverted World and liked his The Islanders that, while engaging in its “unconnected connectedness”, nevertheless felt just a little obtuse. And while The Islanders may have been a little obtuse, I found The Adjacent downright unfathomable. I enjoyed the sum of its parts but, as a whole, it lost me.
Great adventure and fun characters in this high-flying actioner about a female mercenary who gets a job on a ship called The Glorious Fool crewed by some colorful characters possessed of secrets and hidden agendas. It’s a fast read and I would have absolutely loved it if not for an obtrusive romantic subplot that, unfortunately, undermines our protagonist’s kick-ass personality. And sense of logic.
The sequel to The Shining is significantly different from its predecessor, abandoning the original’s isolated setting with its claustrophobic creepiness in favor of a more open travelogue-like tale pitting a grown-up Danny Torrance against a group of roving white trash vampire-like beings. It’s a Stephen King novel so it’s chock full of great scares, but at times the open road narrative feels a little diffuse and, at the end of the day, less like a sequel and more like a whole other world with a couple of shared characters.
THE OPRHAN MASTER’S SON by Adam Johnson
Jun Do is a professional kidnapper in the service of the great People’s Democratic Republic of North Korean. We trace his rise, from his humble beginnings in a work camp run by his father, up the ranks of the oft-bewildering paranoia-fueled system, to his position of power – and inevitable mental collapse. It’s at this point that the novel veers into ridiculous territory as Jun Do assumes the identity of national hero “Commander Ga” to win the love and freedom of famed actress Sun Moon. The only thing standing in his way: King Jun Il. An absorbing and harrowing social satire, but the quirky characters, with their unbelievable motivations, defy credulity.
A young adult coming-of-age tale set in a “perfect” future where equality and service to The Community trumps individuality. Young Jonas comes of age but, unlike his fellow Twelves who are appointed fairly standard careers, he is proclaimed the new Receiver of Memory, the vessel for all the memories of past generations. As he receives these exciting, bewildering, occasionally painful memories, he begins to question what is and begins a search for what could be. A relatively quick read that, while appealing in its premise, ultimately feels like the opening chapter in a much larger story. Soon to be a major motion picture!
THE LAST POLICEMAN by Ben H. Winters
Maia (Asteroid 2011GV1) is on a collision course with Earth. The planet is doomed. Society is coming apart at the seams. Many of its citizens “go bucket list”. Others choose suicide. But some persevere, maintaining their routines, going into work and doing their jobs. And, in the case of Detective Hank Palace, investigating a murder whose victim was discovered in a fast food rest room. A delightful pre-apocalyptic whodunit.
WE ARE THE GOLDENS by Dana Reinhardt
A story of two sisters and their incredible bond. Nell and Layla are inseparable, the best of friends, drawn even closer by their parents’ divorce. But Nell begins to notice a change in her sister. Layla becomes withdrawn and secretive, and Nell suspects it may have something to do with a popular high school teacher. Restrained and real. Wonderful but for the ending that leaves us hanging.
Lincoln O’Neill’s job is to read emails. Other people’s emails. As the newsroom’s Internet Security Officer, he keeps tabs on intra-company correspondence for possible red flag behavior. What at first strikes him as a suspect, even creepy task, grows increasingly fascinating as he begins to monitor the exchanges of two positively delightful employees. One, in particular, captures his interest – in more than a professional way. The novel presents a wonderfully dicey moral dilemma – that it fails to fully explore, ultimately letting our conflicted, guilt-ridden protagonist off the hook. Great, breezy, clever writing. Darkly humorous. Then, about halfway through, takes a turn for the implausibly cloying.
9 thoughts on “August 12, 2014: My June Reads!”
I read the Giver for the first time as an adult, so I mostly found the predicament of the adults in the novel most interesting. I know there are sequels to the book, but they follow the main character boy, where what I wanted to know was how the adults reacted after the end, when suddenly they realized they’d all been doing horrible things like euthanizing “weak” babies all this time. So, basically, while I liked The Giver, it felt like a setup (or first part) to a story that I wanted to read but which the author hadn’t written.
I think I recommended that you read The Passage like…10 years ago. (Well, maybe not that long ago.) It’s not my cuppa, but I saw (or heard) the author on some program (maybe on NPR radio), and right away thought to myself, ‘that sounds right up Joey’s alley!’ So, I tol’ ya ’bout it right here! Like…10 years ago! (Well, maybe not that long ago.)
And you ignored me. 🙁
So, Joe…now it’s time for you to recommend – or not – a book to me. The Last Policeman sounds interesting, but right now I can’t take anything that’s too depressing. You referred to it as ‘delightful’, but I’m not sure how you mean that – in a light way, or a dark way. And I canNOT handle a bad ending right now (like, if the detective dies, or something). Shoot me an e-mail if you don’t want to spoil the book publically. (I prefer spoilers over depressing surprises, so don’t worry about ruining the book for me.)
“I have a question for all dogs lovers. My daughter’s 12 month old Rottie has torn the ligaments in both knees and Katie has to carry her out to pee. (She just found out today.) Roxie (the dog) is a service dog for my daughter and we wondered if anyone knows any organization who would help pay for the $5000 surgeries. My daughter’s a mess right now and the poor puppy just doesn’t want to move – she’s on pain meds, but that’s just temporary.
Just thought that someone out there might know of some place that could help. My daughter’s in Idaho near Boise, if that makes a difference.
It’s so hard when our fur babies need help, look up at us with those sorrowful eyes and we can’t help.”
I have a friend who is blind who had the exact same problem with her service dog. She is active in the community, so many people know her. A group of people started a Facebook page for her with a paypal account for donations. That was how she got the money. I’d recommend you try your local United Way. Or if your daughter is blind, the Lion’s Club raise money for people who are blind. So they may help. Another suggestion would be to go to your local media. They often are willing to get the word out to your community to assist.
I’ve been reading a great trilogy on my Kindle called “Pines”. It’s a great mystery/sci-fi story. I was just thinking what a great movie it would make. Apparently FOX heard me. It’s a mid-season replacement series filmed in late 2013 and airing in 2015.
I hope they don’t screw it up. Shyamalan scares me. He’s too inconsistent to be above average.
That being said, I highly recommend the book. I read the second book in just under 10 days. That’s fast for me, as my time is limited.
@JefffromJersey; the very awesome Nimrod Antal (Kontroll) is directing on Wayward Pines, as is James Foley (House of Cards), and it has writers from Dexter and Tru Calling, plus some great producers are onboard so don’t be put off just yet by the Shymalaness.
I’d been wanting to read Doc Sleep but I think I’ll skip that now in favor of Last Policeman.
@das: Well, depending on how big that asteroid is, it’s probably a safe bet that *everyone* dies at at the end! It does sound like an interesting story though, and I hope that it lives up to its premise.
I also find myself quite interesting in the Afterlife with Archie series. I might actually pick that up.
Thanks Joe for doing all the leg work in reading these books, have to check some of them out. I just finished The 400 lb gorilla, and still trying to remember all I read.
I actually read The Giver a year or two ago.
@Lorinda Check this site. Scroll down to the bottom and it gives several suggestions on how to help get funding for vet bills: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/trouble_affording_veterinary_care.html
Also this site may help you: http://www.thepetfund.com/links.htm
Also this: http://www.thepetfund.com/
This one is specific for service dogs: http://www.iaadp.org/VCP.html
Although this may be regional, sometimes a phone call to one place can lead to other resources: http://www.aapaw.org/resources/vet-assistance-programs.html
And then there is always sites like gofundme but youcaring.com and giveforward.com are fee-free I believe.
Hi, longtime lurker, rare commenter but anyway,
OMD, I was going to ask if you’d read, or heard about Fortune’s Pawn. I read the whole trilogy and loved it…EXCEPT for the horrible romantic part of it. It ruined an otherwise funny and interesting story.
But I wanted to ask if you knew of any similar scifi, space-set books that had the element of humour and adventure that this one had, minus the romance aspect…?
Thanks, and loves to Jelly.