I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the setting, I loved the characters, I loved how the storyline pulled me in and didn’t let me go until the...moreI really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the setting, I loved the characters, I loved how the storyline pulled me in and didn’t let me go until the last page was turned. It had unique characters, well researched back story, and of course a killer on the loose to help spice things up as the death toll keeps climbing. Between the mystery and suspense surrounding this small baby abandoned on a church door step, to the believable relationship and build up between Reverend Clare and Chief Alystyne (will they? won’t they?) it ended up being quite a page turner and I was up late into the night on several occasions because I could not put this book down.
My own mother-in-law is a pastor and so I have some up close and personal experience with the special problems and situations a female member of the clergy can experience in relations to her church and the community. I loved how well researched that aspect was. Everything from how church meetings can be, to how it is visiting shut ins, from marriage counseling to community outreach to last rites was all done realistically and believably. I found myself laughing out loud at the members of the council complaining when Clare runs roughshod over their meeting with her agenda saying things like: we always do this on Wednesdays not today, we always do things in this order, we never do outreach like this, etc. That is very, very like most churches. They never have a good reason (efficiency, sanctity, fiscal responsibility) for why they do things, the reason is almost always just that this is how it's always been done. My favorite line is when she complains to herself that hiring a female pastor was probably going to be the most risque thing they were going to do for the next ten years. Again, that is spot on with a lot of churches.
I also loved the description and the setting of this small town in New York. There were times when I was literally shivering in cold along with the characters. The way everything from the snow, to the wind, to the temperature was very well described and painted a backdrop that made you want to reach for a blanket every time. The characters also were very well done and each had their own individuality, I loved how with just a few lines everyone from an old shut in who is more than meets the eye, to a dirty child playing in a trashy yard was brought to vivid life. And, all of the characters were shown as the deeply complex people that we are, deep secrets, conflicting motives, desires, fears and all.
Some things bothered me though. Like how a pastor in any church was going to be able to have so much free time right around Christmas time, one of the busiest times of years for members of the clergy. Despite all of the planning and sermon writing and decorating and getting ready for the holiday she still had lots of time to spend with the Police Chief and getting into all sorts of trouble with this baby that was abandoned on her church doorstep and the mystery and murders that follow it. Granted she was ex-military so perhaps that explains some of her actions. She doesn't just feel obligated as a member of the clergy in the community but also feels impelled by her training in the military as well. I know that at least shines through in some parts.
The other thing worrying me a little was the budding understanding and almost romance between Clare and Russ, especially considering he is a married man. I will say this though, after reading so much YA romance, with poor relationship building, the very real relationship that is depicted between Clare and Russ based on actual experiences, trust and mutual understanding was very nice to read about. I won't say much more on this subject but will say that it will be interesting seeing how things develop and unfold throughout the rest of this series as, yes, this is the first in a series of mysteries that centers around Clare and Russ.
In spite of and through all of that I really enjoyed reading In The Bleak Midwinter and am looking forward to the next book in the series. I really enjoyed this mystery, and all of the wonderful twists and turns the story took. I ended up being totally surprised by the ending, though that was in some small part because I wasn't paying nearly enough attention to certain characters in the beginning to realize their importance by the end, though now that I look back it was being hinted at all along! I love mysteries that do that!(less)
At first the idea seemed too far fetched and a little hokey. In the style of 1950′s science fiction the by-line on the back read: “They are in your ho...moreAt first the idea seemed too far fetched and a little hokey. In the style of 1950′s science fiction the by-line on the back read: “They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies… Now they’re coming for you.” But when I cracked open the cover I was immediately sucked into a post-robopocalyptic world where humans and robots were fighting a final battle to determine who would have dominion over the earth. The story from start to finish was intense, horrifying, and kept me turning pages needing to find out what happened next. Robopocalypse is a thriller that keeps an incredibly tight and fast paced plot while managing to span several human resistance groups around the globe. It also manages to both be bone chillingly horrifying in this fight against impossible odds and yet still display rays of hope in the fight for humanity.
While the very initial premise, the creation of Archos and the worldwide network he is able to access, is beyond the current realm of possibility the rest of the story proved all too plausible: the auto-cars "glitching" and getting into high speed crashes to kill their inhabitants, cellphone GPS being used to track humans, shutting down all digital networks to remove all communication. Each and every piece of technology we use every day is twisted and used against us to ease the systematic wiping out of humans in the course of the takeover. This book is amazing in its ability to tap into every latent fear about technology humanity has ever had. If the opening of this book doesn't make you consider the lifestyle of a Luddite for a moment or two, the description of the takeover, "Zero Hour," certainly will.
The resistance though, that is the book's true heart. To keep the book fast paced and yet tell this story on a world wide level you zip back and forth between different factions and groups of people in America, in England, in Afghanistan and in Japan. Often this means that just as you are getting to the moment of a discovery before the dreaded Zero Hour, or just as someone has discovered a haven afterwards, or the survivors form a new nation in the ashes (in other words the real "meat and potatoes" of a good long book) the author cuts away to talk about the next faction. This is a very fast paced, hair raising, thriller of a novel so some sacrifices in story telling had to be made to keep the plot tight and the story moving.
Another thing I admired about all these factions was their racial diversity, their very different world views that they brought to the business of banding together as humans, their surviving. There was also a part of me that was really tickled that in the ashes of the United States the most solid faction of survivors came from the Osage Native American reservation so, as they were all that was left, they became a beacon of light and hope and protection for other survivors. My favorite character though had to be Takeo Nomura, the robot scientist from Japan. He was a mouse of man that preferred talking to robots over people, but he was one of the survivors because he knew robots inside and out and constructed his own robot army to defend himself and the other survivors in Tokyo.
I won't talk any more about their stories or I'll spoil it but let it suffice to say this was an incredibly enjoyable, if hair raising, read. Whether you are a tech-geek like I am, or are convinced that if you own a cellphone you will have drunk the kool-aid, then I think you will enjoy this book. The title may say this is a book about robots, but really this is a book about humanity and how when we have our back against the wall our untapped ability to think fast, be wily, be unpredictable, but most of all, bond together and survive can outwit even the most artificially intelligent of opponents. This is easily one of my best reads this year.