Bad blood has existed for years between the Satterfields and McElroys. But when Romy is assigned to tutor high school football player Julian, sparks bBad blood has existed for years between the Satterfields and McElroys. But when Romy is assigned to tutor high school football player Julian, sparks begin to fly and the two fall madly in love. Planning to elope the night of their high school graduation, Julian stood Romy up, never offering a reason why he didn't meet her and head off to Nashville to follow their dreams together.
A decade later, Romy is coming home to take care of her father and with a new boyfriend in tow. The new boyfriend comes from a well-to-do family and has every intention of making an honest woman of Romy. But there's one small catch.
Actually, there are several catches before Romy and her new boyfriend can live happily ever after. There's the question of just who and where she wants to live out happily ever after.
Set in the same small town as The Happy Hour Choir, Sally Kilpatrick's sophomore novel Bittersweet Creek not only lives up to the high expectations I had for it, but it eclipses them. Kilpatrick sets up a romance that has obstacles to it -- and they're obstacles that are authentic and earned. There are moments in this novel when we're just as uncertain who Romy will choose as Romy is and there are moments when I couldn't quite figure out what was going to come next -- because Kilpatrick had created a believable scenario where one of many choices could happen.
The strength of this novel is that Kilpatrick gets us to understand and care about both Julian and Romy. (She even makes Romy's new boyfriend sympathetic. In a role that could easily have been one note, she gives him some depth). By alternating the narrator from chapter to chapter, we're allowed to see inside the minds of our two star-crossed lovers and to discover what lead to their romance and to the events of the night in question. I'll even go so far as to admit that Bittersweet Creek created a bit of a knot in my throat and some misty eyes reading it. Kilpatrick gives us a deep, fully realized and believable romance between these two.
It helps that she's surrounded our star-crossed lovers with a great supporting cast. You won't necessarily like all of them, but they're all utterly believable, read and authentic.
Honestly, I was completely surprised and pleased by this novel. Sally Kilpatrick set a high bar for herself with The Happy Hour Choir. Bittersweet Creek easily clears that bar and has set a new higher bar for her next book. It's firmly put Kilpatrick on my list of authors to watch and read everything she publishes. And yes, this book is one that is totally outside of my usual reading comfort zone. But don't let that bother you -- pick it up, set everything else aside and prepare yourself for one of the most enjoyable books I've read all year.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC for this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I should also add that I went to school with Sally back in the day and that we both share a deep, abiding love of all things Big Orange. ...more
I read My Antonia in high school and recall enjoying it a great deal more than many of the other assigned books that were part of the curriculum.
TwoI read My Antonia in high school and recall enjoying it a great deal more than many of the other assigned books that were part of the curriculum.
Two decades later, I picked it up again, partly on a whim and partly out of a desire to visit an old friend and see if it lived up to my memories.
The good news is that not only did it live up to my fond memories of it, it exceeded them. I'll admit that I'd forgotten portions of the novel, making it feel at times like an entirely new reading experience while at others feeling like I was spending time with an old friend.
Told as the affectionate reminisces of Jim Burden on his lifelong friendship and love for Antonia Shimerda, I couldn't help but feel as if My Antonia is Little House of the Prairie for grown-ups. After being orphaned, Burden moves to his grandparents' home on the prairie, meeting the immigrant family the Shimerdas along the way. Jim forms a bond with the family, especially their daughter Antonia. Over the course of the novel, Jim and Antonia come into and out of each other's lives at various points -- the death of her father (a suicide in one of the novel's more vivid sections), moving to town, growing up, getting married and raising kids.
I suppose if this novel were written today, Jim and Antonia would eventually end up together. However, Cather doesn't go for the obvious romantic resolution, instead allowing the reader to fill in the blanks on the unspoken love that exists between Jim and Antonia. (The edition I picked up from my local library includes a discarded prologue that has an older, more cynical Jim reflecting on his love for Antonia and seeing her as the "one who got away." I've got to admit I think the novel is better with the revised introduction that is included in most editions). This is a far richer, more nuanced love story than you'll find in many of contemporary novels claiming to have a love story for the ages.
Re-reading this one, I was struck by some of the simply elegant passages and scenes of this era in American history created by Cather. I will admit that visiting this one again, I am (once again) curious to pick up more works by Cather.
I'm happy to report that this one fully lived up to my memories of it. In fact, it may have been better the second time than it was the first. ...more
After a flu-like virus sweeps the world, a percentage of the population is "locked into" their bodies -- unable to interact or communicate with the ouAfter a flu-like virus sweeps the world, a percentage of the population is "locked into" their bodies -- unable to interact or communicate with the outside world. One of the victims of the virus is the wife of President Hayden, leading to the nation and world putting an emphasis on research to find ways to combat the disease as well as help those suffering from its after-effects find a way to once again become a participating member of society.
The result is a variety of new technologies stemming from a neural network that allows victims to download themselves into mechanical bodies known as threeps or into the minds of willing flesh and blood surrogates, for a limited amount of time.
As John Scalzi's Lock In opens, governmental subsidies and funding for the victims of Hayden's syndrome is about to be reduced, leading to protests and conflicts on both sides of the issue. And that would be the week that Chris Shane, one of the most visible victims of the syndrome thanks to famous parents, is about to take a job with the FBI's crime unit that investigates crimes related to the neural network.
To welcome Chris to the job, a murder has taken place -- one that could have implications far beyond those that are immediately apparent. And it's up to the team of Chris and a partner who was trained to be part of the mind-sharing program but dropped out years before.
In many ways, Lock In reminded me of Issac Asimov's The Caves of Steel. And if you know my preferences in reading material, you'll know that is some pretty higTh praise since Caves of Steel ranks among my favorite novels -- genre or otherwise. The pairing of two unlikely cops on a case that has implications far beyond the initial blush feels like it's right out of Asimov. But there's also an examination of how changes in technology can reveal what it means to be human and the implications for that on our rights as we move forward. Like a lot of the more memorable science fiction, Lock In if offering up an examination of certain issues of our time, all under the disguise of a future world setting.
And, for the most part, it works very well. The novel is part science-fiction novel, part procedural and it works very well as that hybrid. The familiar nature of the police procedural helps Scalzi set the table to some of his bigger ideas and concepts to the table, keeping them palatable to readers and not feeling like he or we have bitten off more than we can chew. He also weaves in enough detail to make the resolution of the mystery fit not only as from the murder mystery aspect but also within his science-fiction universe.
Reading Lock In, I can't help but feel as though this is an early front runner for the Hugo Award for best novel next year. It's certainly on the running to be one of my top five books I've read this year. ...more
**spoiler alert** While William Campbell Powell's debut novel may be shelved in the young adult section of your local bookstore or library, Expiration**spoiler alert** While William Campbell Powell's debut novel may be shelved in the young adult section of your local bookstore or library, Expiration Day is one of those books that can and should get a wider audience from brave readers who are willing to overlook shelf placement in making their reading selections.
In the near future, humanity is on the brink of extinction. As the birth rate drops, couples desperate for a child are turning to androids that look and act like children. Couples can raise the android as their child until his or her eighteenth birthday (androids are sent in each year for an "upgrade" which is disguised in their memories as going on vacation) to help ensure the android doesn't become aware that he or she isn't a "real" human child.
As Expiration Day begins, Tania Deely believes she is the daughter of a small town minister and his wife. Journaling to future alien visitors to our planet, Tania relates details of her every day life and her struggles to become a normal teenager. She also discovers that she's not a human being as she originally thought, but that she is also an android as well.
This throws Tania for a loop because there's a catch to the androids. Each one has an Expiration Date on their eighteenth birthday. At that time, each android is returned to the robot corporation, its memory wiped and the body recycled as a lower model service droid. Androids develop emotionally and intellectually as a human teenage would though there are certain drives that are suppressed (for example, while androids enjoy kissing, they don't necessarily have any interest in becoming more physically intimate).
Tania's developing interest and talent for music as well as other factors begin to make her question whether or not the self-imposed expiration day is right, fair or if there is anything she can do about it. She has to keep her interest and questions on the downlow though -- the state closely monitors her Internet searches and certain searches bring swift, harsh consequences.
Expiration Day draws on the influences of other, sci-fi works including the robot novels of Issac Asimov and Logan's Run. But it's the voice of Tania and her relating of her life's events and her growing up that set this novel apart and make it something special. In most ways, Tania is a normal teenager -- questioning authority, having crushes and conflicting with her parents. She's just a teenager who has a date looming when she'll be turned off and lose all of what make up who she is.
Told in journal entries, the novel allows the reader to really get to know and relate to Tania.
Simply put, this is one of the more enjoyable, thought provoking and compelling books I've read -- not only this year, but in a long time. Powell as a gem of a first novel and one that will linger with you long after you've read it.
Pick it up, give it a try. I think you'll love it. ...more
If you're expecting D.C. Pierson's novel The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To to address and resolve all the issues related to the title characIf you're expecting D.C. Pierson's novel The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To to address and resolve all the issues related to the title character and his sleeping disorder, you're going to be sorely disappointed by this book.
However, if you approach this book and view the title as a hook to get you interested in the story of the friendship to two young, geeky teenage boys and their trials, tribulations and first loves, then you're probably going to love this book. I know I did.
Darren Bennett is a bit of a loner, constantly doodling in his notebooks, textbooks and anything else he can find. One day, Eric Lederer notices the drawings and the two begin their friendship -- one that includes developing the outline for an epic franchise of space fantasy films. It also involves avoiding Darren's older brother and his bullying friends, falling for the same girl (though dating her at different times) and, oh yeah, the secret that Eric doesn't sleep and never has.
Despite having a sci-fi element to it, Pierson keeps his novels and characters ground, interesting and utterly relatable. This is one of those books that had me losing sleep just wanting to spend a few more minutes in the world of Darren and Eric. Of course, it's the girl who comes between our two heroes that leads Darren leaking Eric's secret and the inevitable complications that arise from it.
Pierson's writing is enveloping and this entertaining, charming story has earned a spot on my favorites shelf and it will likely remain there for a long time. I picked up this one in the hopes of scratching a book off my to-be-read pile and discovered a real gem. ...more
If you’ve ever watched an episode of classic Star Trek, you’re probably familiar with the old adage, “Don’t wear a red shirt.” Odds are you won’t survIf you’ve ever watched an episode of classic Star Trek, you’re probably familiar with the old adage, “Don’t wear a red shirt.” Odds are you won’t survive until the first commercial break.
John Scalzi’s latest novel Redshirts delves into that old adage as well as several other tropes from not only classic Trek but many of our favorite genre series. On board the flag ship of the Universal Union the Intrepid, odds are that if you aren’t one of the five members of the command crew, your life expectancy can be measured in months, if not days or weeks. Crew members go out of their away to avoid any contact with the big five and has developed an elaborate system to disappear when any one of them comes looking for away team members.
Newly assigned to the Intrepid is Ensign Andrew Dahl. Dahl is part of the latest round of replacements for those crew members previously killed in action and it appears he and his friends are also doomed to a short life expectancy. But the life expectancy of the crew isn’t the only odd thing going on. There’s the miraculous ability of one of the senior staff to heal from virtually any injury or disease thrown his way in a matter of hours, if not days and then there’s the mysterious box that will give you the almost the right answer to any problem, provided there’s a ticking clock and you show the near answer to the senior show so they can show off their genius and/or technical prowess.
Dahl and his friends slowly discover there’s something more at work on board the Intrepid and they’re determined to put a stop to it.
As a satire of popular genre television series, Redshirts is a dead-on delight. The novel will have you smiling at times and laughing out loud at others. And if all Redshirts wanted to be was a parody of the tropes of classic Star Trek, it would be enough. But instead Scalzi goes for something more—a look at how character deaths can impact a novel, series or other form of popular entertainment. Between the moments of great satire and laughter, Scalzi will make you think and re-assess many of your favorite genre shows and look at the importance of getting the science right in science fiction.
Scalzi’s novel is one I’ve looked forward to since he first announced its title and premise on his blog last year. My anticipation reached a zenith point when I was able to get my grubby paws on an advanced reader copy and I could only hope that the novel would at least live up to the lofty expectations I had for it. The good news is not only did it live up to them, but it exceeded them.
Scalzi has shown in the past that he can write a funny novel. Last year’s Fuzzy Nation showed flashes of the funnier side of Scalzi and his The Android’s Dream starts off with a war between worlds started by flatulence. Redshirts is better than both of those (and they’re my two favorite works by Scalzi so far).
And that’s all before you get to the three codas Scalzi includes after the main story is concluded. Each one adds a unique twist to the Redshirts universe and while they’re not essential to the main story, they’ll add a lot to your enjoyment of the Redshirts universe....more
George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" is everything epic fantasy should be--a richly crafted world, fascinating characters and no abandon whenGeorge R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" is everything epic fantasy should be--a richly crafted world, fascinating characters and no abandon when it comes to inflicting horrible fates upon the cast of what seems like thousands.
The third installment in the epic series is the longest, so far, and the best of the series. Building on everything set up in the first two books, "A Storm of Swords" delivers from the first page, grabbing you by the collar and never letting go. The story is an epic one and if you've heard that you shouldn't become attached to any character or set of characters, you've heard correctly. Bad things happen to a lot of the characters in this novel and Martin doesn't pause much to allow you to catch your breath as he moves from one revelation to the next.
There's not much more I can say about this book and series that hasn't already been said. It's epic, it's compelling and it's fantasy done exactly right. It'd be a shame to let one more second go by without reading it, if you haven't already done so. (Assuming you've read the first two installments, of course!) ...more
I should preface this by saying I've never read the original novel that Fuzzy Nation pays homage to, butLeave it to John Scalzi to do a reboot right.
I should preface this by saying I've never read the original novel that Fuzzy Nation pays homage to, but after reading/listening to Fuzzy Nation the book will probably make its way onto my to-be-read pile in the near future.
Jack Holloway is a disbarred lawyer, working as a prospector on the distant planet Zarathustra. While surveying a local mountain with his companion Carl, a dog who can set off explosives, Jack discovers a rich vein of sunstones, the most valuable gem in the universe. Suddenly Jack is going to be rich beyond his wildest dreams, as will ZaraCorp, who own the mining rights to the planet.
That is until Jack comes home to find a new creature has broken into his jungle dwellings. Dubbed a "fuzzy" by Jack, the creature is highly intelligent and adaptive, which could be a huge problem for ZaraCorp. If the creatures are proved to be sentient, then ZaraCorp must give up all rights to exploit the new found mineral wealth of the planet and pack up shop.
Jack turns to his ex-girlfriend and ZaraCorp biologist, Isabel to help him look into the matter and to determine if the fuzzies are sentient.
Written in the vein of Scalzi's The Androids Dream, Fuzzy Nation is a masterpiece by one of the genre's best working authors. If you're only familiar with Scalzi from his military SF "Old Man's War" series, leave those expectations at the door. Fuzzy features the same kind of addictive, compelling writing but there's a lot of humor, fun and serious thought-provoking stuff at work here. In fact, I may even go so far as to declare this my favorite work by Scalzi to date.
The audio version is a delight as well. Read by Wil Wheaton, the story comes alive though Wheaton's delivery. In his introduction, Scalzi says he can think of no one better than Wheaton to read the audio version of his book. And having heard it, I heartily agree.
If you're looking for a thought-provoking, stand-alone sci-fi novel that shows the genre can still be fun, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Fuzzy Nation. ...more
There’s been a lot of buzz for Greg Iles’ latest novel “Turning Angel” and after reading it, all I can say is that it deserves every bit of it.
Dr DrewThere’s been a lot of buzz for Greg Iles’ latest novel “Turning Angel” and after reading it, all I can say is that it deserves every bit of it.
Dr Drew Elliot seems to have it all-he’s the trusted doctor in the small town of Nachez, Mississippi. He’s successful professionally, he’s married with a family, he’s got the big house and all the trappings. But he has a dark secret-he’s been carrying on an affair with a 17-year old cheerleader and tennis phenom, who is bound for Harvard. When the girl’s body turns up in the river, Elliott’s love for her comes to light and he’s the prime suspect in the killing.
Elliot asks his good friend (whose life he saved), Penn Cage for help in representing him and finding the real killer.
But what could have been a simple who-done-it thriller becomes something more. Iles not only documents the mystery of who killed the girl but rips off the innocent veneer of the town of Nachez. We come to understand how Elliott could fall for the girl, carry on an affair with her and even plan to give up his life to be with her. There are no heroes or villians here, just real, breathing characters painted in shades of gray.
The case is pushed through by oportunistic politicians, one of whom wants to use the case as a springboard to the mayor’s office and beyond. Along the way, we find out about the underbelly of a small town and the frightening implications of the death of one girl.
Iles pulls no punches in his harsh, frank examination of the murder and the consequences and fallout from it. The book is close to 500 pages but it feels shorter than that becuase Iles prose is compelling and his characters fascinating. This is an absolute must read and it’s made me into a huge fan of Greg Iles....more
I can't quite recall how I first heard about the books of Donald Miller--whether it was through a friend or a web site recommendation. However, I do kI can't quite recall how I first heard about the books of Donald Miller--whether it was through a friend or a web site recommendation. However, I do know that I read his book, "Searching for God Knows What" before the book for which he is best-known, "Blue Like Jazz." And while I like "Jazz" a great deal, it's always been "Searching" that has stuck with me and been my favorite book that Miller has written.
"A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" may have replaced "Searching" as my favorite book by Miller. It's certainly jumped up to the top of my list for one of the best books I've read all year.
"Million Miles" begins with Miller sitting down with two other guys to write a screenplay based on one his best-selling memoirs. In the course of writing, Miller realizes that he wishes his life could tell a better story and begins a journey into discovering how to do that. He learns about the elements of what makes up a story and relates those to his daily life and his response to God.
Miller utilizes a conversational style to his books so it feels less like you're reading words on a page and more like you're sitting across from him, sharing a beverage or meal and talking about things. Miller's books is one that will challenge, that will tug at your emotions and one that get you to make a serious evaluation of where you are in your life. It made me sit back and ask how I was telling my story and examine the vital scenes within my own life, wondering if I'm truly living the story I want to live and the one that I should be living.
Miller does this by bringing in examples from his own life. At several points, Miller talks about how writing can be hard for him, but it never seems that way reading his work. He peppers in stories, giving us the details of the story as needed to make his points. He weaves together a tapestry of stories, showing how one decision led to another and those went into a completely and totally unanticipated direction. For example, Miller decides to go hiking in South America to impress and spend time with a girl, which leads to his decision to get in better shape and leads to his meeting with the father he never really knew. It's a series of events that you'd have a hard time putting together in fictional novel, but told in the context of Miller's life and journey, it's a fascinating look at the points he's trying to make and challenge of making sure the story we're telling is the right one.
As always, Miller's book is a fascinating, compelling and interesting one. Yes, we did have to wait a bit longer than usual for this release, but it was completely worth it. If you're looking for a book that will offer you wit, wisdom and a challenge for your life, this is one to put at the top of your list. ...more
A blending of the four gospels into one single narrative by a Garrison Keillor and Dan Johnson and then read by Keillor in his own, unique voice and sA blending of the four gospels into one single narrative by a Garrison Keillor and Dan Johnson and then read by Keillor in his own, unique voice and style. If you're looking for a new way to approach reading or experiencing the greatest story ever told, this is one great way to do it. Keillor's delivery is superb (as always) and hearing Jesus' life and events put into a chronological order is fascinating and fun. ...more
When Grace and John meet at a bar on Halloween, the attraction between the two is undeniable. Everything is going well, until the morning after GraceWhen Grace and John meet at a bar on Halloween, the attraction between the two is undeniable. Everything is going well, until the morning after Grace mysteriously vanishes from John's apartment after John confesses he feels responsible for the death of his brother.
That's the hook for Charles De Lint's latest fantasy novel, "The Mystery of Grace." The novel is one part love story, one part fantasy story and one part fairy tale.
The romantic coupling of Grace and John has some problems before it. For one thing, they met two weeks two late. And not just in that typical romantic comedy, oh I'm with someone else now two weeks too late. Two weeks too late because Grace was killed in a convience store robbery two weeks before. She's stuck in a limbo world based around several blocks of the town she lived in before her death. She can revisit our world two times a year--Halloween and another day in early May. Grace has just come back when she meets John. The connection between the two is nearly instantaneous and helps propel the story for the rest of the book.
De Lint focuses on each character separately in alternating sections. De Lint goes back, filling in the details of John and Grace before they met and then moving the story forward after they meet and how the two work to overcome the obstacles before them. Along the way, we meet a wide variety of other, fascinating characters including one man on the ghostly side of things who is obsessed with finding out why he and other spirits are trapped in a couple of blocks of the small town. Why haven't they go on to the "other side" or wherever it is that people go after death. Eventually, Grace begins to question things and figures out what is holding her back from crossing to the next stage in her life.
"The Mystery of Grace" has elements of a lot of different types of stories, all woven together around the central characters of Grace and John. The novel is one that is full of magic, heartache and fascinating characters.
One of the best novels I've read all year. ...more