Did I write this book? Yes, yes I did. Should I recuse myself from reviewing it due to a conflict of interest? Probably, but if Amy Coney Barrett canDid I write this book? Yes, yes I did. Should I recuse myself from reviewing it due to a conflict of interest? Probably, but if Amy Coney Barrett can rule on election cases, I'm writing this review. At least I didn't put a star rating on it.
I wrote the original draft of Downpour in one month, November 2016. Part of me wishes I hadn't written that first draft so quickly (because of the mountains of rewrites and edits), but I did. As a result of the times, I think Nick's second adventure came out darker than the first. In a way, I think that helped me with Nick's reckoning. As the first book's cover says: Nick is a drunk with a blatant disregard for others, but he's damned good at hunting creatures that aren't supposed to exist. Great tagline for a character, but it means he's got some serious flaws.
Downpour sees Nick taking a journey into the South American jungle looking to right one of the many wrongs he committed throughout his career. While he's battling supernatural beings, mysterious cryptids and the jungle, he's also waging a war on himself. Nick's inner struggle underpins this entire journey, and it helps him grow into a better character.
I can honestly say, this is my favorite of Nick's adventures so far, and I'm excited to see where he goes after this arc. I'm midway through writing that myself, so while I've got an idea, it's always changing. Thank you, readers, for coming on Nick's journey with me, and I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it. ...more
Just like Hyperbole and a Half, Brosh manages to toe the line between serious commentary on mental illness and segments that had me laughing out loud.Just like Hyperbole and a Half, Brosh manages to toe the line between serious commentary on mental illness and segments that had me laughing out loud. It's clear that she went through hell between her last book release and now. Some of these chapters remind me painfully of myself, and I love the book for it. It's not a cohesive story by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is life. The disjointed nature of the stories and time-jumping chronology here perfectly encapsulates what it's like trying to explain living with mental illness. Her humor is sharp as ever, and I never thought I'd laugh so hard at the description of awkward encounters with an overly-zealous child neighbor.
If you were a fan of Hyperbole and a Half, you're going to love it, if you weren't, I'm confused and we should have a conversation. While serious at times, I found this book to be the perfect pick-me-up for the darker part of the year. ...more
With a back-cover blurb describing hammerhead sharks and a diver on the cover, I was ready for a deep-sea adventure. Sadly, I was sorely mistaken.
SixWith a back-cover blurb describing hammerhead sharks and a diver on the cover, I was ready for a deep-sea adventure. Sadly, I was sorely mistaken.
Six pages of Grave Descend take place beneath the surface, and while there is a confrontation with a hammerhead, it’s basically a footnote. The bulk of the story instead focuses on a lackluster criminal plot and a slew of unexpected gunfights. While the opening to the story is full of delightful tropes about a gruff diver that just wants to get paid, Crichton spent most of the story building up a mystery that just wasn’t that mysterious. Maybe it’s because I’m coming hot off reading the Master of Mystery, Agatha Christie, but the plot felt dull.
Crichton’s main character is forgettable and really doesn’t have much motivation beyond getting himself out of a tough situation. After taking a sketchy job, McGregor, the aforementioned gruff diver, finds out that not everything is as it seems, and his employers are trying to kill him. It’s a worn-out plot that fits well in the pulp genre, but the execution was lacking. Couple that with a cast of stereotypical Jamaican island characters and a rich billionaire’s crew, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. There’s plenty of action, and even a crocodile chase (it’s not a damned shark), but all of it serves a mediocre narrative that ends up bringing the book to an unsatisfying ending.
Clearly, Crichton got better with time as we all do, but for those looking for lost gems in his back catalogue, you can skip this one. For a much better diving book, check out Crichton’s later work, Sphere. Maybe it helps to look at Grave Descend as a steppingstone to that later hit, but I still feel disappointed. Ah well, on to the screenplay that served as the basis for Westworld, I suppose. ...more
Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted multiple times for Television and Movies, including a recent box-office bomb in 2017, yet somehow, IMurder on the Orient Express has been adapted multiple times for Television and Movies, including a recent box-office bomb in 2017, yet somehow, I managed to avoid spoilers. Going into the novel, I had no idea what to expect other than a limited knowledge of Agatha Christie’s famed Detective Poirot and a few movie trailers. What I found was a subdued murder mystery, moving at a languid pace, that managed to keep me hooked throughout.
Detective Poirot is a delight from start to finish. He’s meticulous, cunning, and has a dry, at times condescending sense of humor that lightens the story. The book follows him as he boards the Orient Express for routine travel and is of course sucked into a mysterious murder. It is an understatement to say there is no action in this book as the bulk of it is told through the perspective of Poirot interviewing witnesses. There are no chases, no second murders, only the thorough examining and reexamining of evidence.
Ordinarily, that’s the recipe for a boring book, but thankfully, following Poirot as he thinks through the implications of witness testimony, provides the action the story needs. Though the main characters never physically move (the train is stuck in a snowdrift, so makes sense), the audience is pulled along on several twisting journeys through witnesses recounting their alibies. Each of the passengers on the train represents some level of detective-novel trope, but they are all interesting in their own way, and the way their histories interweave gives them depth.
As with all great detective novels, Christie ends on a twist, and while it was not my favorite, it was a satisfying end to the journey. The mystery’s end isn’t traditional, and as such kept me guessing until the heavier clues were dropped near the end. Overall, I enjoyed my ride on the Orient Express and recommend it to those looking for some simple, escapist, mystery fiction. I’m excited to see what other mysteries Poirot solves, but for now, I think I’m back to reading about the horrible prospects of space travel in The Expanse series.
Its insane to think about, but before this, I had never read Agatha Christie. Her works have been adapted timeThere’s Been a Murder, but It’s Teatime
It’s insane to think about, but before this, I had never read Agatha Christie. Her works have been adapted time and time again, and yet I never felt compelled to pick them up. That was until a few weeks ago when a friend recommended Crooked House. This is a prototypical murder-mystery where a rich family are all wondering who gets a piece of their father’s money after he passes in questionable circumstances. Reading this story, it’s clear the recent cinematic hit, Knives Out, drew at least some inspiration from Christie’s tale.
Christie created many of the mystery tropes we know today, which makes it hard to knock the book for any of them. Many elements of the plot are predictable, and the characters can oftentimes seem like caricatures of British high society, rather than believable humans. There’s a bit of fun leaning into tropes (I do it plenty in my own writing) and it serves to make the final twist all that more interesting. When all the characters are behaving according to some pre-written law of a mystery novel, it makes that unexpected ending even more satisfying.
Crooked House is a short read, coming in at just six hours for an audio book and less than 300 pages in paperback. As such, there’s never a dull moment, and I might not be the smartest reader, but the mystery had me guessing right up until the last minute. Watching Christie’s over-the-top characters interact is always interesting, even if they are the epitome of clichéd. If for some reason you love mystery and haven’t picked this one up yet, I highly recommend it. I’d also recommend it for anyone who was a fan of Knives Out, the set-up for both mysteries is similar, but each plays out in a unique fashion.
Coming into Book 3, The Expanse series was on a hot streak. The first two are some of my favorite science fiction toEven the Bottle Episodes Are Good
Coming into Book 3, The Expanse series was on a hot streak. The first two are some of my favorite science fiction to date, and Caliban’s War (#2) especially was going to be hard to top. Abbadon’s Gate manages to blow past its predecessors with another incredible story and standout new characters. More impressive, it keeps the tension high even while most of the story takes place in one location. The stakes somehow manage to top vomit zombies taking over Venus, and that’s truly a feat.
The new POV characters introduced in this book are two of the best. It’s tough to follow an act like Bobby and Avasarala, still my favorites, but Abbadon’s Gate manages. Ana is a preacher with a heart of gold and steel resolve stuck in the middle of one of the tensest situations in human history (and that’s coming from someone who just endured the 2020 election). Her constant optimism and drive to do the right thing is a nice balance to other more utilitarian characters and aligns her well with Holden. Second up, Bull is possibly my favorite of the new cast, probably because he reminds me a lot of Bobby. His brash and impulsive nature always made his chapters an interesting read keeping me on the edge my seat.
The conflict in Abbadon’s Gate also manages to feel the direst of the entire series. From the jump, tensions are ratcheted to eleven and they don’t die down. To the very last page, this book is throwing curveballs and putting its main characters and the human race in danger. Much of this is due to the excellent and final new POV character, Melba. Driven by family scorn, Melba comes into this book to wreck Holden and his crew and ends up dooming quite a few others in the process. Her character might have a simple drive, but her reactions are nuanced and often unexpected. She breaks up what could have been a formulaic story by constantly injected tiny doses of chaos.
Overall, this is easily on par with the other two novels, and right now feels like the best in the series so far. The new characters are all standouts, and the pages practically turn themselves. As always, I was impressed by the world the authors have crafted and their commitment to realism. Each book in this series continues to build on the vast groundwork they laid and as a result, I’m jumping straight into Book 4. Putting this series down does not seem to be an option. Each novel is a unique showcase of a thriving world that I just want to know more about. Top notch sci-fi in every way, highly recommend. ...more
Calibans War picks up some amount of time after Leviathan Wakes (look, its been a while since I started it and the library auto-returned it when ICaliban’s War picks up some amount of time after Leviathan Wakes (look, it’s been a while since I started it and the library auto-returned it when I turned on my Wi-Fi). James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have taken work as the OPA’s right hand, and somehow, that’s not the most interesting part of the story. The authors introduce three new POV characters that steal the show and honestly, make Holden and his crew feel like a backdrop.
First up, Bobbie, a badass Martian Marine who wears power armor, flexes a lot, and has a well-written human struggle with PTSD (side note: Holden’s struggle is similarly interesting to read, but this review is supposed to be brief and my parentheticals are already getting far too long aren’t they?). Bobbie is a grounding character in a literary ecosystem filled with polarized extremes of idealists and villains. Her character journey from near-death on the frozen surface of Ganymede, to working with some of the highest-ranking officials of Earth’s government is a joy and a highlight.
Speaking of high-ranking government, Avasarala, the UN Undersecretary with a heart of steel, and filthy silver tongue, is my new favorite character in the series. Full disclosure, I watched a few episodes of the TV show before reading Book 2 and she’s in it from the beginning there, so I had some exposure. As such, I was always picturing the actress, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and it helped me see the character very clearly.
Lastly, I have to mention Prax, because he’s there and the reason for most of the action in the story, but compared to the other two characters, he’s basically white noise. Prax’s sole purpose in the story is to make some bad decisions and motivate the world into yet another global conflict over the protomolecule. The story of him eventually hiring the crew of the Rocinante to chase down rich sociopaths who want to build bioweapons is interesting, but honestly, a very small contributor to why I liked this book so much.
A lot like Game of Thrones (all of the books, and Season 7/8 withstanding), the strength of the story in The Expanse comes from colorful character interactions and rich world-building. On it’s face, the plot of Caliban’s War is a simple kidnapping with a ticking clock, but watching the characters interact in that pressure cooker is gold. Coupled with the fact that the authors’ world continues to surprise and delight, I can’t recommend this series highly enough. Can’t wait to read Book 3, but I have some Expanse novellas to check out before then! ...more