The Dog Stars is a literary look at a post-apocalyptic world, along the lines of The Road. However, The Dog Stars has a much brighter outlook and is a...moreThe Dog Stars is a literary look at a post-apocalyptic world, along the lines of The Road. However, The Dog Stars has a much brighter outlook and is a much more hopeful look at man’s ability to survive, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well, in a world that has fallen apart.
I initially had a hard time getting into the story. I think there were two reasons: Heller’s writing is rather poetic, lacking much of the punctuation and structure I prefer in prose. I had to adjust to the rhythm and pacing of his language. The other reason is connected to the first: I began by reading a digital galley and the formatting was confusing. Normally I don’t have an issue with this, but Heller’s writing depends on things like line breaks and page layout to make sense. When those aspects are absent from the form, it is really hard to tell who is speaking or what is going on. I switched to a paper ARC (thank goodness I had it in both formats), and found it much easier to read after that. I have not seen a finished digital copy of this book, but readers might want to see if they can sample it on their ereaders before purchasing, in case the formatting wasn’t entirely fixed.
The plot of The Dog Stars was fine, but didn’t impress me much. I might just be too burned out on these kinds of stories. There’s something in the current zeitgeist that has resulted in a flood of post-apocalyptic tales, and it can take a bit to distinguish one from another for me. When the real end comes, I expect I’ll be thoroughly bored by it.
I was quite bored with the first part of this book as well. It takes its time setting up the characters and the world, and combined with the stream-of-consciousness narration, it was plodding at times. More happens later in the book, which managed to keep me engaged so I didn’t abandon my reading. The main character, Hig, has a really touching love for his dog, and keeps himself sane by flying his plane. Much of what he doesn’t isn’t so much for survival as it is to keep life worth living for him. A lot of the plot is very internal early on, and didn’t seem to pick up until there were more actual events and some danger to spice up the story.
I expect that there will be many fans of this book, but I’m left feeling a bit lukewarm. There are some lovely passages, and it’s nice to think that the death of most of humanity can leave a man feeling so spiritually connected, even in the face of cannibalism and destruction. However, the difficulty I had relating to the writing early on really colored my overall opinion of the novel.(less)
With the countdown to 12/21/12 in full effect, it seems like perfect timing for 12.21. I think most people know that nothing is going to happen when w...moreWith the countdown to 12/21/12 in full effect, it seems like perfect timing for 12.21. I think most people know that nothing is going to happen when we reach the (questionable) end of the Mayan long count calendar, but there's still an inkling in the backs of our minds of "what if!?", kind of like when Y2K happened. 12.21 takes that uneasiness about the impending date of doom and creates a potential pandemic scenario that involves both airborne madcow related prions and a mysterious Mayan codex that spells out the downfall of a kingdom. This book combines biblio- and medical-thrillers into one large end-times threat.
12.21 races along, moving the plot forward at a quick pace. While this can be good, I felt at times like the tempo of the story served to cover up holes in the plot. This was one of those books that I think could have stood to have taken its time a little more, to make more connections between ideas and plot points, and to meander a little longer with characters in order to flesh them out. There were a few times when I had to think about whether I'd somehow skipped some pages, because the flow of the story just didn't feel like it was entirely there. Along the same lines, the ending felt rushed and abrupt, and I'd have liked to have had more of an explanation for the resolution.
What I did enjoy about 12.21 was the medical description. I'm a sucker for a good disease that makes people go crazy, so a prion disease with no cure that makes people into psychotic insomniacs was a lot of fun to read about. My final verdict: there's enough fun medical and apocalyptic thriller in this novel to keep you entertained if you're into that stuff, so it's worth overlooking some of the flaws in writing and storytelling to read it.(less)
Jocelyn hasn’t been the same since her twin brother Jack was killed months before. They’d been through many foster homes together, and lived through a...moreJocelyn hasn’t been the same since her twin brother Jack was killed months before. They’d been through many foster homes together, and lived through a horrific experience at Seale House, a foster home for screwed up kids. However, then Jocelyn receives a note from Jack, causing her to believe that he may still be alive. To find him, she needs to solve a series of clues he’s left for her. She also needs the help of fellow Seale-Houser Noah. Together, they face unknown dangers in their search for the truth about Jack.
I had mixed feelings about The Vanishing Game. I was intrigued enough to keep reading, but I never feel sufficiently connected to the characters to be really compelled to keep going. Mostly, I just wanted to figure out if my guess about the ending was right (it was). It was a bit of a downer as far as endings go, but I couldn’t figure out how it could be anything else, especially with the heavy-handed clues.
The bulk of the book is a bit of a wild goose chase, with the two main characters solving puzzles to find where they need to look next. That’s a lot of people’s thing, but not mine. I’m not a big puzzle person, and get tired just thinking about people rushing from place to place. There was an added creep factor with a potentially haunted house and twisted, broken foster kids with homicidal tendencies, but the more I think about it now, the less I think the story needed it. In fact, it’s a bit of a distraction from what’s really going on here.
I did like seeing the mystery of Jocelyn unfold throughout the book, and catching glimpses of her life with her brother and terrible mother, as well as the episodes of flashbacks to Seale House. I think the Seale House bit could have been subtracted in order to create another novel, though.
Overall, The Vanishing Game,/i> was a mystery that had enough creepiness to keep me reading, but was a bit disappointing in retrospect.(less)
Walker’s debut book, The Age of Miracles, is a quiet, lovely meditation on the inevitability of loss and the ever-present shadow of mortality that hov...moreWalker’s debut book, The Age of Miracles, is a quiet, lovely meditation on the inevitability of loss and the ever-present shadow of mortality that hovers over our lives, no matter how young. This book is told by a woman recalling the period of her youth when she was transitioning from a girl to a young woman, and the world decided to literally wind down. The rotation of the Earth slows, gradually at first, then very noticeably, and despite people’s decision to be willingly blind to their sad future, the planet changes life irrevocably. And although this is clearly an end-time scenario, the reaction of mankind is dull and full of denial, rather than panic and outrage. The result is a dreamy recollection, shrouded in the haze of memory.
Much of The Age of Miracles reminded me both of the film Melancholia and Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. There is a tone of letting the sadness wash over you as you go through the motions of everyday life. Still, the main character Julia is able to fall in love despite the death that surrounds everything. The small pieces of her world are still in play: being ditched by her best friend, struggling to fit in at school, the breakdown of her parents’ marriage. It’s just that in the big picture this stuff doesn’t actually matter, not when the the Earth’s magnetic field is gone and birds are dropping dead all around you.
While it is subtly beautiful, The Age of Miracles didn’t blow my mind. Reading it felt like diving into a past state of depression, but with a touch of fondness for the familiar melancholy feeling. There’s almost no science to explain the phenomena, and it’s probably better that way. This isn’t a book about thinking, it’s a book about feeling.(less)
Fourteen angels are cited in the Book of Revelation. The final angel brings forth the end of days, but only after humanity has gone through a series o...moreFourteen angels are cited in the Book of Revelation. The final angel brings forth the end of days, but only after humanity has gone through a series of trials to ready it for this event. However, what happens if the earlier omens that would trigger each of the angels are skipped, and the final angel is brought forth too soon, far before mankind is ready and ahead of God’s plan? A secret faction of the Catholic Church, the Hetairia Melchizedek, studies omens and signs, hoping to protect the world from this ever happening. When a prophetic dream and change in a statue of Remiel, the final angel, occur, the society, including young priest Chris Mognahan, seek to find the incarnation of the angel on earth so they may work with her to prevent the premature end, and protect her from the evil Other that seeks to destroy her.
The Sounding was a far more thoughtful and exciting novel than I had anticipated. Following several introductory pages of the Book of Revelation describing the angels and end of days, the opening of the novel hits with a bang–a supernatural murder on a college campus. Alerted by the strangeness of the killing, Father Mognahan alerts the Hetairia Melchizedek, and, together with a mute monk, searches the campus for Remiel. They find her in the form of Elise Moore, a beautiful young student who has lived a quiet life hiding her supernatural powers from those around her.
Although Elise was initially a hard character for me to come to like, over time her character is expanded to the point that you can’t help but root for her. Like Christ, she has a sacrifice to make to save the world, and as much as she’d like to give it up, she also knows that she plays a critical role in the survival of mankind. The other characters were well-rounded as well, and Father Chris is sure to be a favorite of many reading the book. It begins as largely his story, but transitions to focus on Elise and her struggles.
There is also plenty of danger and action in the novel. A being they refer to as the Other, the opposite of Remiel, seeks to destroy Elise. Somehow, it always knows where to find her, and it shows no mercy, tearing down whomever it needs to in order to get to her.
What I enjoyed most about this book is how entrenched it is in Catholicism and how much I learned about religion without it ever feeling preachy. As a non-Catholic, I love getting glimpses into the workings of the Church and its theology. We also get a great literary tour of the Vatican City, making me long to visit it in real life. Fans of books like The Da Vinci Code, and Angelology will most likely also enjoy the theology mixed with adventure and action at play here. And it’s written much better than The Da Vinci Code.
My only real issue with the book has nothing to do with the story, but more with the publisher. I reviewed a finished copy, and counted at least seven or eight grammatical errors and typos (periods missing from the ends of sentences, using “they” instead of “thy” in two separate instances). Granted, that’s not much considering the book is nearly 500 pages long, but it was enough that I noticed and wished that it would have been picked over more carefully by an editor.
I’m very happy that I was approached to review this title, because I probably would have never picked it up on my own. It’s the kind of book that will stay with me long after I finish it, and I even ended up having dreams based on the story and characters, it got under my skin so much. I’m excited to see what Carrie Salo creates in her future books.(less)
I generally find the thought of the zombie apocalypse to be terrifying. The idea that for almost every person who dies, a zombie is born, until you ca...moreI generally find the thought of the zombie apocalypse to be terrifying. The idea that for almost every person who dies, a zombie is born, until you can no longer escape the zombie hoard is nearly too much to conceive. I guess this fear comes largely from my desire to keep living, in my own conscious state, rather than to become part of the animated undead, hungry for brains. However, the main character of This is Not a Test, Sloane, has no such qualms. Sloane is already dead inside. She planned her suicide, wrote a note, and no longer wanted any part of life when the zombies happened. For her it was a relief. But then a funny thing occurred: Sloane can’t seem to die. There’s always somebody there urging her on, protecting her, keeping her safe, when the one thing she wants is to let herself go to suicide by zombie.
Zombie fans be warned: there are not a lot of zombies in this book. Sure, they make a grizzly appearance here and there, but for the most part the zombies are a threat that lurks in the background, like a white noise of impending doom. The story largely takes place in a high school gym, where Sloane is trapped with five classmates. To them, she appears fearless. Sloane just desires to find a way out without compromising the others.
This is Not a Test is fairly intense as far as Sloane’s life and inner psyche is concerned, and not so much with the zombies. Sloane’s dad is abusive and her sister, the only person who could protect her, ran out on her. Sloane contemplates suicide throughout the book because her dad seems to have broken her so completely that even the threat of zombies is better than the thought of living with him again.
Overall, I enjoyed reading This is Not a Test, although I could have done with a little bit more zombie mayhem. Still, the point of view of a suicidal protagonist gives a fairly fresh zombie apocalypse experience, and deals with larger issues through genre fiction, which is the mark of a good zombie book.(less)
We’re here, everyone. The year 2012. I’ve been hearing for years that the Mayans prophesied the end of the world on December 21, 2012, because that’s...moreWe’re here, everyone. The year 2012. I’ve been hearing for years that the Mayans prophesied the end of the world on December 21, 2012, because that’s when their long-count calendar ended. Nevermind the recent developments about archaeologists discovering Mayan calendars that go past that date. There have also been the recent predictions of the Rapture, a slew of new books about the apocalypse and post-apocalyptic scenarios, and movies about the Earth ending in a variety of ways. It seems that the closer we get to 12/21/12, the more literature is produced about endtimes. Disasters of an epic scale have never been hotter. Ron Miller’s book takes the cue of recent American culture and goes through many of these different possibilities, testing out their plausibility.
This is exactly the kind of book I would have been all over as a kid. The subject matter is engaging, and the kind of thing that can blow your mind if you think about it too much. The book is stylish, and full of beautiful color photographs to accompany Miller’s text. This is written for younger readers, and has a full glossary and references section to help encourage kids to seek more information. Miller doesn’t cotton to the hype of 2012, and is sure to explain where the idea of the Mayan apocalypse originated in Western culture. I think this is a great choice to give to the inquisitive older kid in your life, who loves strange topics, science, and the idea of the end of the world.(less)
Struck surpassed my expectations of what this book would be. Instead of merely being yet another YA paranormal romance, I found myself pleasantly intr...moreStruck surpassed my expectations of what this book would be. Instead of merely being yet another YA paranormal romance, I found myself pleasantly intrigued by the lightning addiction, post-mega natural disaster Los Angeles, and the cult theme. Plus, Bosworth has given us another strong female character who takes control of her situation instead of acting passively. Combined with fast-paced storytelling and the high stakes of needing to save the world, this adds up to a really strong debut novel.
I used to live in Los Angeles. I love L.A., as the song goes. And so I was delighted to see Los Angeles presented in the aftermath of a giant destructive earthquake. Californians are always expecting the “big one,” and Struck takes place after such an earthquake has hit. The details of how L.A.’s destruction has affected everyday life, and how people are struggling to continue with life even though aid is slow coming was touching and seemed truthful.
Mia is a pretty rad main character. She has Lichtenberg figures decorating most of her body: branch-like darkening of her skin where lightning has struck and spread. Google it. Mia attracts lightning, but also craves it. Lightning has burned her clothes off, and has made her heart stop on multiple occasions. While this makes her totally cool, it also sets her apart from those around her.
The villain of the story is a cult leader named The Prophet. He interprets the disaster as a precursor to the Second Coming, and uses a television show to gain support. In fact, his numbers have swelled because he was able to predict the time of the earthquake, causing many to believe that he is the real deal. I love books with cults, so the inclusion of this made me really happy.
The only downside for me in Struck is that it has yet another insta-romance, which I’m pretty much over. However, that wasn’t the central point of the story, and there was enough going on that I didn’t actually mind too much. I think Struck was one of the stronger YA paranormal books of the year I’ve read so far, and definitely fun enough to garner a read by somebody who is casually interested.(less)
When massive earthquakes hit around the world, that's only the beginning of the disaster. People are different now--somehow, something was unleashed t...moreWhen massive earthquakes hit around the world, that's only the beginning of the disaster. People are different now--somehow, something was unleashed that opened many up to their darkest desires and made them crave violence. Now, four teens are all trying to survive as best they can in the face of the apocalypse, where you can trust nobody, and the good are killed quickly while the evil thrive.
Dark Inside is an ambitious novel that never quite grabbed hold of me as a reader. It had all the elements that I'd normally crave: the stories of specific people in dire straights, creepy monster-like villains around every corner, dramatic tension, a disaster scenario. What it didn't have for me, though, was heart. There was just something about this book that never managed to get under my skin, to cause me to really care for the various protagonists involved. Maybe it's because I didn't have much of a backstory for any of the characters, since the story starts at about the point where the initial disaster occurs. Or, it could just be that the characters themselves never felt 100% likable or full.
The writing was good, overall, and I enjoyed Roberts' ability to build up a sense of dread in nearly every chapter of the book. I do think that there could have been more releases of that dread along the way in order to keep building without overtaxing the reader. It was maybe just too much of a good thing in that way. And not to give anything away, but the ending was a disappointment to me. It felt unresolved, and I walked away with no feeling of hope or closure. Again, just more of that dramatic tension that's on every page of this novel.
If you're a fan of very dark books about the worst that humanity has to offer, this is the book for you. I'd say it's also worth reading if you're a fan of apocalyptic stories and want to read them all.(less)
When Alex’s family goes on a trip to his uncle’s house without him, he thinks it will be an awesome weekend to himself. Instead, the caldera under Yel...moreWhen Alex’s family goes on a trip to his uncle’s house without him, he thinks it will be an awesome weekend to himself. Instead, the caldera under Yellowstone erupts, launching him into an epic struggle for survival while he journeys to try to locate his family. Along the way he is witness to inhuman atrocities as well as astounding kindness. He also meets Darla, a tough-as-nails Iowa farm girl. Together, they struggle through hardship after hardship, fighting to retain their humanity and growing up in the process.
Ashfall truly is a harrowing read. An eruption of this magnitude would be disastrous, and Mullin doesn’t spare his readers as far as the science and implications of such a disaster are concerned. The idea of fiery rocks being blasted 900 miles is terrifying, as is the volcanic winter that results from the ash blocking out the sun. The simple natural effects of the volcano are enough to induce nightmares, but then there comes the collapse of society as well. If anything, the human element in this book is even more dangerous than the weather. Unsavory people are out to make the most of the bad situation, and the government also reacts badly. I didn’t think those scenarios were that far off, either. There was a lot of thought given to how society would react if a disaster of this size would occur in today’s United States, and it would be truly frightening.
When I first began the book, Alex was annoying. He seemed like a teenage boy who didn’t care much about his family, and was selfish. My immediate reaction was that I would not make it through the book if I had to yet again read a story narrated by an immature boy obsessed with sex. What I got, however, was a character that grew and learned about himself and the people around him. Nothing is more satisfying than going on a journey with a main character that has such development that is derived from overcoming obstacles, and that was very much the case in this book. And while sex was a topic that was sometimes mentioned, it was actually treated quite maturely rather than for laughs or shock value.
Darla was an awesome character, too. She was spunky, yet also had a vulnerable side. I really appreciated that she was the one who was good with machinery, and able to do so many things that I would not know how to do. Definitely a strong female role model for readers.
Ashfall was a little bit like the events that would create the world of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. However, there is a lot of heart to this book, and it shows that even in the worst of circumstances, we’re able to survive. Ashfall is a very strong debut for author Mike Mullin.(less)
There’s been quite a bit of buzz about the so called Mayan Apocalypse, rumored to take place on December 21, 2012. As the date draws nearer, more and...moreThere’s been quite a bit of buzz about the so called Mayan Apocalypse, rumored to take place on December 21, 2012. As the date draws nearer, more and more sites appear discussing the event on the internet, and the theories of what this means for mankind grow stranger and stranger. Understandably, all of this chatter can really frighten those who read it and don’t know what to make of it all. This serves as the impetus for Aveni’s book: a young man, disturbed by the 2012 hype, begins an email correspondence with Professor Aveni to find out what the Mayans really thought.
Aveni gives his expert opinion. He’s both and astronomer and a Mayan researcher, and his expertise in both fields is very apparent as you read the book. To be honest, this was a little bit of a drawback for me, since although he tries to write for the layman, it still came across as over my head. I took astronomy in college, but still struggled a bit when it came to the astronomy heavy chapter (although, to be fair, I struggled with it in college as well). The best chapter for me was when Aveni summed up the many other times humans have predicted the impending end of the world.
Aveni largely thinks that the people who are spouting the Mayan apocalypse are getting it wrong. The astronomy doesn’t hold up, and the Mayan research is sketchy at best. There are just too many areas where we don’t know enough to make a real judgement call about what the Maya meant or knew. So chill, Aveni thinks we’ll be okay.(less)
This book was great. Most zombie horror follows a single group of people throughout their attempts to survive. This book breaks that formula and inste...moreThis book was great. Most zombie horror follows a single group of people throughout their attempts to survive. This book breaks that formula and instead offers readers a broad global view of the cause, happenings, and aftermath of World War Z, the great zombie catastrophe that nearly destroyed the human race. The book is comprised of a series of oral history interviews conducted by the author. Each interviewee has an individual view of the war and brings a human element to the story. Brooks imagines all aspects of a catastrophe of this magnitude, from the effect on warring nations to the men abandoned on the international space station. Riveting, political, insightful, terrifying, this is a great book.(less)