Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fiona Barton: The Widow

In her debut novel Fiona Barton asks the questions of how well do we really know our spouse:

It is a parent's worst nightmare their child being snatched from the front yard without a trace and no suspect, but someone has to have little Bella or know where she is. It's a wife's worst nightmare when her husband is accused of taking Bella. She knows her husband right? But as the police start asking more and more questions and everyone is searching for the truth and she doesn't know if she can face the facts so she chooses to continue to stand by her husband's side. After all he knows best, right?

This is Barton's debut novel and it is probably the best one, in this genre, that I have read this year. The depth of the characters is where she excels in this book and the mystery/psychological parts are well done. This book takes the inclination we all have when a horror story comes out on the news and it turns out the perpetrator has a family, we tend to question about how could the family not know. The fact of the manner is that most of these type of perpetrator are really good at hiding their other side of their lives. They are master liars and manipulators. There are times in this book where you question who is manipulating who as everyone seems to not only wants something but also something to hide. I think that some people will find it a bit slow but it is kind of a slow burn throughout.

I loved the different points of view that Barton decided to use and I felt like she portrayed all of them accurate for this type of situation. For the Detective who wants to do everything he can to find Bella and bring the perpetrator to justice and anything less he sees as a failure and is willing to risk it all to succeed. For the Reporter she wants the story of the lifetime to help save her career, to try to stay on top and while she pretends to be someone friends the story is all that matters to her. For the Widow who stands by her husband never wavering her commitment to him and her belief in his innocence, I mean she would know right if he was guilty. For the Mother, who desperately wants to believe that her daughter will be found alive and justice will be served. For the Husband who has secrets but don't we all have secrets and fantasies that we don't want to share with other doesn't mean that I am a bad man. With a few chapters from the point of view from some of the other secondary and tertiary characters within the book. I will say that the majority of the chapters are for the Widow and the Detective but I enjoyed when some of the other point of views were thrown in to give some new insight and perspective about the case. It's funny though while I like the characters that Barton created I never actually liked any of the characters.

You need to pay attention to the dates of each chapter so you know in the context of the story when that person is, which also means that you need to pay attention to the details in each chapter. This is what created the slow feeling to the book, but I actually think that this enhances the story instead of hindering it.

You will go back and forth about whether Glen committed the act of taking Bella as the information that the police use to go after Glen is circumstantial and there are so many factors that you as a reader can see that are overlooked in the investigation as the police do get tunnel vision (which I am glad that Barton included as I think this makes the case more real as it seems at times police believe they have found "their man" and use the evidence to make it fit). However, Barton counters this by having Glen seem very creepy and while he does not physically hurt his wife you can tell that he has control and power over her. If Glen is not guilty of taking Bella there are quite a few other things that he is guilty of.

The more I think about this book and look back on it, the more that I like it. As I stated above I loved the characters that Barton developed and their interactions with each other. I am excited to see what Barton comes out with next, I'm thinking she is an author to watch out for.

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Side Note: This book has it stated in the premise on GoodReads that it is similar to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. I have not read Girl of the Train so I can not compare it, but this book has a completely different feel and even genre, in my opinion, when compared to Gone Girl. This is not to say that this is a bad thing, but if you are reading this book expecting a Gone Girl type of book you will be disappointed, as The Widow is more of a psychological mystery than thriller.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ransom Riggs: Miss Peregrine's Home For Pecular Children

In his debut novel Ransom Riggs takes the readers on an adventure for the peculiar:

Jacob's grandfather has a box of old photographs of children with them doing the strangest things or very weird appearances. Jacob's grandfather assures him that they are not fake and the children did exist. However, as Jacob gets older he begins to questions everything his grandfather told him and begins to believe that his grandfather was just making everything up. That is until his grandfather's murder and Jacob is there to witness it. What he sees changes everything for him, and he questions his own sanity as he is haunted by his grandfather's last words. Jacob needs to solve the riddle in order to find some peace, and have his adventure begin.

I've had this book on my TBR shelf for quite some time now but I can say that the reason that I picked it up was due to the fact that it has been turned into a movie and I try to read the book before the movie comes out. This book was fairly slow for the majority of the book and I guess it had to be as Riggs needed to set up the scene and worlds that Jacob lives in and is learning about. However, I never really felt the world building that Riggs was trying to portray in the book got to the depth that Riggs wanted it too, especially since he took a lot of time to get there.

I'm a bit confused about the "children" under Miss Peregrine's care (I use the term children loosely as many of them are in their 80s). I get the idea of the loop and how it would preserve them from aging, but does that mean that it keeps their mental age the same as when they entered to loop. This is never fully explained as to why an individual who may look like a teenager or child but is 80 years old and yet still will have the mindset of a teenager or child. This part was confusing to me. However, the peculiarities that the children have are a bit different and interesting and really not seen as powers, just abilities they are born with so that can be helpful and some that are more of a deformity.

Did anyone else think that the relationship/love interest thing between Jacob and Emma was creepy? I mean Emma was Jacob's grandfather's girlfriend when he was there and now Emma is trying to basically replace him with Jacob. Just creepy and kind of wrong to me especially when you couple it with the maturity issue stated above. I think the book would have been just as successful if Jacob and Emma were just friends, no live interest is really needed in this book.

I think my favorite part in this book was the Whites. Their history, how they become a white, their search for power and why they want it was really interesting. They also have some interesting abilities and powers that I will not go into here as it would spoil some key aspects within the book.

This book makes you think that all those wild stories that your grandparents and great grandparents told you may be true and that is the true charm of this book. This book is great for those who are of young adult age and would recommend it for those youth to read not so much so for adults. I'm not sure yet whether I will continue on in this series.

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On a side note, as I stated above I read this book as I saw the trailer for the movie and even just based up the trailer I can tell that there are some significant difference between it and the book, especially the main character Emma and her peculiarities. It will be interesting to see what else they have changed.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Richard Newell Smith: Naked Fear

 Richard Newell Smith shows just how far one woman will go to ensure her survival:

A good old fashion Whore Hunt (yes, you did not read that wrong) that Annie finds herself part of. The last thing remembers is sharing a cup of coffee with the last patron in her bar and the next thing she knows she's on a secluded island with men with guns and hounds hunting her and two other women. Now Annie is on the run for her life and she wonders if she can stay alive long enough to get her own revenge on these men and turn the hunter into the hunted.

This book was not quite what I expected it to be and it moved a lot slower than I thought it would. I thought this book was going to be about the hunt and that the actual hunt would be a longer scene in the book other than just the first chapter. Also based upon the description I pictured more of Annie fighting back during the hunt but instead we get Annie fighting back in the real world. So you may have guessed it she does survive the whore hunt (I'm not really giving anything away this is literally the first chapter) and makes it her mission to get revenge on those who were part of it. I guess I wanted more of a blood battle and what I got was white collar type of revenge. This shift from what I thought the premise was for the book is what caused it to feel like it moved at a slow pace; with Annie planning, getting close to the men and then putting her plan in action. I was not really enjoying this book till the latter half when Annie finally is able to put her plan into action and once this was occurring the book did become way more interesting. However, I will say that it felt like her plan fell in to place way too easily with her meeting the right people and finding things out right really quickly.

Annie is an interesting character and to begin with she has the blood lust of just wanting to shoot the men involved. However, based upon her lawyer's advice she decides against that action and decides to ruin them in a more white collar way. I will say that this is smart of her, but i question if really changing her hair color is enough to be enough of a disguise especially when she gets up close and personal with them. She also is way too trusting of people she just met and does not stop to think of the consequences involved with her actions.

The secondary characters in this book are not developed in this book, so all the information that we gain it through Annie. I think it would have been interesting to have some points of view of the men that were hunting Annie just to show how two faced and evil these men were and it might have added to my interest in the story.

Although the book grew on me by the end, I just was expecting something very different than what I got that it spoiled to book for me. I noticed this book is possible part of series and I wonder where Smith can take this book and characters from here. I read this more as a stand alone.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Marissa Meyer: Cinder

Marissa Meyer takes the classic fairy tale of Cinderella and puts her own futuristic spin on it:

Cinder is a Cyborg and as a Cyborg she is seen as a second class citizen. She works as a mechanic to support her step-mother, step sisters and household. Cinder loves being a mechanic and has dreams of her own of fleeing from New Beijing and her circumstances, she just needs to find the right time. However, everything changes when her youngest step sister contracts the deadly plague that his haunting the Earth and Cinder's stepmother blames her for it. Cinder's life is her stepmother's to do with as she pleases and she wants Cinders to suffer and will do anything to see that happen. Cinder knows that she has to escape but everything changes when she meets Prince Kia and his quest to protect to Earth from the Lunar threat above. Cinder is going to have to make some hard choices and some of them are going to hit hard at home.

This book is a perfect read for readers who are of Young Adult age as it is not extremely heavy on romance aspects it is like a teenage crush and there is no violence in this book. Although this book and cover make it seem like this book is a retelling of Cinderella. I would say that it is very loosely based on that fairy tail and Meyer has given it a steam punk futuristic twist. I liked that it was only loosely based as we all know the Cinderella story and this allowed Meyer to do add some of her own elements to the story,especially when your main character is a cyborg and the addition of a plague that is haunting the Earth.

The Lunar angle was also interesting, that the people from the Moon have these mind control powers and want anyone killed who can resist them (insecure much). Although I do not think this part was explored fully in the book I think that this was done on purpose and more will come to light in the next books. I could just felt like there was more that the Lunar Queen and people were hiding. I mean why do they really need the Earth when they have the moon? I hope in one of the books in this series we actually get to go to the Moon.

I'm on the fence with Cinder. I loved that she was a Cyborg and a mechanic, such a cool idea, and that she is not really girly girly, though this seems to change as soon as a boy is introduced. I think that is one of my main problems with Cinder is that it feels like she changes (what she can) for the Prince, is ashamed of who she is as a cyborg because of the Prince and makes some not so smart decisions that not only affects her but others around her. I get that she is a teenager, I just wish she was a little stronger and a little more comfortable with who she is and not just want to change it for a boy.

Prince Kia annoyed me on many occasions but I guess the reasons that he annoyed me had to do with the fact that he was a spoiled prince and that was just in his character (he does grow a bit by the end but not enough for me to like him). For someone that was supposed to be groomed to be the new King (especially due to the circumstances in the book) I found that he was still just a whiny teenager on many occasions (I mean who misses meetings with other world leaders? That is your job) and mad because things are not going his way.

I have a big problem of where this story is set to take place in New Beijing. New Beijing???? There was nothing in this book that had any sort of Asian culture associated with it nor was it described in a way that would make me think that it was in Asia. It sounded like a European or Western place not something in Asia. I understand that this takes place why in the future or in a completely different world but if you are going to refer to place that is real I think it should have some of those aspects. I think the only Asian people referred to in the book were some of the people at the market. I don't even remember Kia being described as Asian and if he is the Prince you would think he would have some sort of Asian descent.

I know I list quite a few problems that I had with this book above but this book was a fun and easy read for me as you can tell that it was written for a more youth based audience. That said I did enjoy the book and Meyers interpretation of the Cinderella story and I would continue on in the series, even though the main characters were not to my liking. I look forward to see what other fairy tales Meyers chooses to interpret, expand upon and put her steam punk twist on.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mary Roach: Stiff - The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

I was drawn to this book for a few reasons. Firstly, if I could do university all over again I would work to becoming a forensic anthropologist which is career that I find extremely fascinating. Secondly, my grandpa passed away in 2013 and he elected to donate his body to science and recently we just received information that he was ready for cremation. My grandpa used to joke about how the student was in for a interesting shock when they got to his lungs (he smoked several packs a day for almost his entire life) and his liver (he drank almost as much as he smoked). As my family and I will never fully know the adventure that my grandpa's body went on after he passed, I thought it might be interesting to know a possible path that he took.

Mary Roach takes readers on an strange adventure with what happens when someone donates their body to science. She takes reader through some history from how they have been procured to what the have been used for and the advancements that have been made because of work on them. The scientific aspects of the books are mixed in with Roach's own thoughts, feelings and whit. 

Each chapter takes on a different aspect in science that could benefit from the use of cadavers to work on; Plastic surgery to Crash Test Dummies Roach has deemed to explore a wide range for the use of cadavers (and it is by no need an extensive list, but she did choose some interesting ones that I never thought of). This book also touches on at times the use of animals in experiments and some that are pretty disturbing and what I would think would be straight out of a horror novel. For example attaching a decapitated puppy head to a live dog to determine if the flesh can be reanimated or survive. And I guess that brings me to my next point if you have a squeamish stomach this book will not be for you, as Roach does go in to a fair amount of detail at times.

This book has quite a bit of humour in it for the topic but you need to have a similar type of humour or not get offended easily in order to enjoy this book. Roach often gives her own personal observations or thoughts during the moment when researching or interviewing scientist about the "lives" of cadavers, and most of the time her thoughts could boarder on offensive to some people at the jokes or thoughts that just seem to pop in to her mind. I think that this is the part that people will either love or hate, however, this is what makes the book truly unique in voice instead of just stating scientific or history facts.

I liked learning about some of the curious lives that human cadavers can have now and in history and I am sure that there are many more adventures for them to have. Although Roach is not a medical professional (as you can tell from her personal comments) I think she did a great job in presenting the science as well as making it interesting. I would read another book by Roach and I seriously would consider donating my body to science even though I wouldn't want it to end up in some of the places the cadavers in this story did.


I don't have something too similar to this book, but these are some fiction reads that I think will be a good segway from this book.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ernest Cline: Ready Player One

Ernest Cline takes readers to 2044 and introduces readers to the OASIS where people live their lives in a virtual world and the greatest treasure hunt is about to begin:

Wade Wilson is a gunther, which means he devotes all of his spare time in The OASIS (most people do trying to escape the poverty) and trying to find James Halliday Easter Egg, which would unlock the mass fortune that he has accumulated. Five years have done by since Halliday passed away and the first clue was give and it appeared that no one was closer to finding the first key. Until one day an teenage boy's name appears at the top of the scoreboard as having found the copper key. The race is on as Wade and other gunthers struggles to find the next keys to the Easter Egg, but there are those that will make the game deadly not only in the virtual world but in real life as well.

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. I found I devoured it and was reading it every chance  I could. I think what I liked the most about this book is that it is a reality that I could see for our future. Not only this generation in a great recession but people live basically their entire lives online as an escape from it. There are already so many online games and worlds that people are a part of that, at times, consume their life and who they are. Online you can be whoever you want, look how ever you want and be a completely different person. The going to school in the online universe was also a cool aspect as it would allow those who do not live close to a school or have the inability to go to school to still learn and interact in that type of an environment.

Wade is an interesting character and he is ever devoted to his goal of finding the keys to Halliday's Easter Egg, so that he can change his own . He has this funny habit of siting all the 80s information that he states or talks about in the book, which I got used to the farther into the book and found it quite interesting.  Although Wade is a teenager in the novel and some of his life choices and decisions reflect this, I think it was his obsession with the 80s culture that made him seem older than he actually was. However, other than Wade being the narrator of this book, I never really felt much connection to him and I cannot pin point why (maybe it was due tot he fact he was the narrator which took some of the suspense away?).

This book is pure geek (which is awesome) at its best especially if you have a things for 80s pop culture or are a gamer with a love of older video games. The information that Cline has amassed in order to create not only the clue that Wade has to decode but the language that Wade uses as he tends to reference everything is outstanding. This created a unique voice and path for Wade to take throughout the book and you can tell that Cline had to do a lot of planning and researching to get it right as he probably knew there would be people out there that would let me know if he got is wrong. I think this was the one place where Cline lost me at times, as I was trying to figure out the clues as well, there was no way I had the knowledge to figure them out (other than the first clue which I found pretty obvious).

Ready Player One is one of my favourite reads so far this year. I loved the concept of this book and how true it could be in our future. I look forward to seeking out other books by Cline.

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