Dune

Dune

By: Frank Herbert
Published: 1965
Pages: 890
Series: Dune (#1)
Quote: “And the price we paid was the price men have always paid for achieving a paradise in this life—we went soft, we lost our edge.”

Goodreads description:

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for….

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

Review:

Dune has been on my TBR list for many, many years. I heard there is a new movie based on the book coming out so I decided now is finally the time to read it. I haven’t seen the old movie yet either.

I have some tips if you read the book. So without any spoilers…..if you want to read Dune, and I recommend you do if you enjoy sci-fi, here’s some pointers:

  • You won’t understand half of the things being discussed right away. It’s okay, keep reading, you didn’t miss anything. Herbert doesn’t go into the backstory of every little thing. This is actually refreshing even if I did initially keep skipping back thinking I must have missed the backstory somehow.
  • The POV is constantly changing, even from paragraph to paragraph. Once again, you aren’t missing anything. Just go slow and accept it.
  • There’s an appendix in the back that I didn’t read (my library ebook had expired and disappeared before I got to it!) but from what I’ve read online, you shouldn’t read it first. Read the story, then you can be filled in with the appendix afterward that apparently goes into more of the backstory.

I’m not going to lie, it took me about a month to read this book. I was interested in the story, but not necessarily the characters. How can a book be so long and detailed but the characters not be detailed? I don’t know, but that’s how it seemed to me, and if I’m not super invested in the characters I tend to take longer to read the book. But it was worth taking so long and I did enjoy the story. I plan to continue with the series and watch the movies.

The Clan of the Cave Bear

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The Clan of the Cave Bear

By:  Jean M. Auel
Published:  1980
# of pages:  516
Series:  Earth’s Children (#1)
Challenges:  A to Z

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Goodreads description:

Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly–she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza’s way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.

Review:  I searched a bit to see if there were any articles that mentioned how the animated movie “The Croods” was inspired by this book from the 80s, but I didn’t see anything about that being the case.  Basically, The Clan of the Cave Bear is an amazingly elaborate and detailed version of “The Croods.”  I mean, really, they’re incredibly similar.

After a cave in destroys their cave, a clan wanders to try to find a new cave.  On the way they meet Ayla (instead of Guy) who looks different and thinks differently than they look and think.  The clan takes her in, but over the years they are constantly challenged by her ideas and feelings.  Her mind works differently than theirs.  She is able to come up with new ideas (sound familiar?), something that hasn’t happened in the clan for thousands of years.  Their brains aren’t capable of thinking of new ways of doing things and the fact that Ayla’s brain is able to make new connections and that she challenges the clan’s traditions is both fascinating and frightening for the clan members.

The book is remarkably detailed.  I found myself amazed that it sounded so real and had to keep reminding myself that we don’t know that much about early people.  This is mostly fiction, but the author must have researched hunter/gatherer ways of life and what there is to know about early humans.

I became intensely wrapped up in Ayla’s story.  She kept showing her differences in dangerous way and I’d like be like, NOOOO. Not again, please get out of this danger.  Please, clan, don’t send her away.  I was a little emotionally caught up in the story!

Two people I know who have similar tastes in reading to my own said that they really enjoyed this first book of the series, but didn’t like the following books.  If you’ve read all the books what do you have to say to this opinion? Should I keep reading the series or leave it at the first book that I enjoyed?

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Amazing world building, interesting plot, and good characters.

Vicious

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Vicious

By:  V.E. Schwab
Published: 
2013
# of pages:  366
Series:  Villains (#1)
Challenge:  A to Z
Quote:  “The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t always scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren’t always protracted, heavy with meaning. Between one sip and the next, Victor made the biggest mistake of his life, and it was made of nothing more than one line. Three small words.”

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Goodreads description:

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

Review:  So you’d think that since this is the first in a series and it was published in 2013 would mean that there’s now a complete series to enjoy.  But you’d be wrong!  There is a second book in the series that was just published a few months ago.  But obviously the author took a break from the Villains series to work on other books, such as the Shades of Magic series, which was a good series.

Vicious is about two friends, Eli and Victor, who take a college thesis idea and decide to act on it…by killing themselves.  As you can imagine, things quickly go downhill and 10 years later, Victor is out of prison and seeking revenge on Eli, a self-professed hero in the city of Merit.  Eli has an ability of his own, but he considers himself a hero because he’s ridding the city of everyone with supernatural powers.  Victor doesn’t really care about saving people’s lives, and of course he doesn’t really care about the “strays” he keeps attracting such as Mitch and Sydney, he just wants his revenge.

I really enjoyed this story and the characters.  There were a few things that I thought could have been more rounded out, such as Eli and Victor’s decisions in college, but the present day storyline and all of the characters made this an interesting and original book.  I recommend it to fans of fantasy and superhero/anti-hero fans.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Great characters, original story, could have been a little more detailed.

Red Dragon

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Red Dragon

By:  Thomas Harris
Published: 
1981
# of pages:  464
Series: Hannibal Lecter (#1)
Challenge:  A to Z, Print Only

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Goodreads description:

In the realm of psychological suspense, Thomas Harris stands alone. Exploring both the nature of human evil and the nerve-racking anatomy of a forensic investigation, Harris unleashes a frightening vision of the dark side of our well-lighted world. In this extraordinary novel, which preceded The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, Harris introduced the unforgettable character Dr. Hannibal Lecter. And in it, Will Graham — the FBI man who hunted Lecter down — risks his sanity and his life to duel a killer called the … RED DRAGON

Review:  Of course I’ve heard of The Silence of the Lambs, both the book and the movie, and I’ve even seen part of the movie.  However, I never had a strong desire to read the books in the series.  A friend let me borrow the entire series so I decided to go ahead and check it out, starting with the first book in the series.  I was a little confused, when, a few pages in, it is clear that this book chronologically takes place after The Silence of the Lambs.  I wondered if I was supposed to read this last even though it was published first, but sure enough, it is number one in the series and most people recommend reading it in the series order even though they don’t line up chronologically.

The story is about a retired investigator named Will Graham.  He’s enjoying his well deserved retirement with his wife and stepson in Florida after hunting down several serial killers, including the famous Hannibal Lecter.  However, his peaceful life is interrupted by a FBI agent asking him to temporarily leave retirement to help track down another serial killer who is already responsible for murdering 2 entire families.  Investigators are stumped and they know Will Graham is the best at understanding and predicting the behavior of serial killers.

Graham ends up immersing himself in the investigation of the “Tooth Fairy,” who eventually morphs into the “Red Dragon.”  He’s willing to do anything to track down the person responsible for 8 murders who will most likely kill again within the next few weeks, including consulting Hannibal Lecter, who is locked up in a high security mental facility.

This book is filled with fairly graphic descriptions of horrific murders.  I was wondering if I would be really disturbed, but it reminded me of some of Stephen King’s books, especially the Bill Hodges trilogy, so I felt prepared.  The reader hears about the horrible stuff through Graham’s point of view and also the killer’s point of view.  It’s weirdly intimate and emotionally confusing being able to see into the killer’s mind and past and sometimes even feeling sorry for the murderer.

I ended up really enjoying the story.  I couldn’t put it down and kept thinking about it throughout the day when I wasn’t reading.  While the content was disturbing, I didn’t feel traumatized by the descriptions, although some people may not have the same experience.  I recommend this to adults who are fans of crime fiction/mysteries.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  This has been added to my favorites list because of the engaging plot and interesting characters, but it wasn’t as well written as some of the other books that have received a 5 star rating from me in the past.

Interview with the Vampire

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Interview with the Vampire

By:  Anne Rice
Published: 
1976
# of pages:  342
Series:  The Vampire Chronicles (#1)

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Goodreads description:

This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside. Yet, he makes Claudia a vampire, trapping her womanly passion, will, and intelligence inside the body of a small child. Louis and Claudia form a seemingly unbreakable alliance and even “settle down” for a while in the opulent French Quarter. Louis remembers Claudia’s struggle to understand herself and the hatred they both have for Lestat that sends them halfway across the world to seek others of their kind. Louis and Claudia are desperate to find somewhere they belong, to find others who understand, and someone who knows what and why they are.

Louis and Claudia travel Europe, eventually coming to Paris and the ragingly successful Theatre des Vampires – a theatre of vampires pretending to be mortals pretending to be vampires. Here they meet the magnetic and ethereal Armand, who brings them into a whole society of vampires. But Louis and Claudia find that finding others like themselves provides no easy answers and in fact presents dangers they scarcely imagined.

Review:  At the beginning of October I traveled to my cousin’s wedding in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I couldn’t resist bringing Interview with the Vampire along.  I watched the movie many years ago, but I’d never read the book.  It was awesome being able to see places in the city that I had just read about in the book.  However, the book was way too wordy for me to thoroughly enjoy.

Louis tells the story of how he was a young man enjoying his life on a Louisiana plantation.  After an unexpected tragedy, he meets Lestat, who turns him into a vampire.  Louis is confused about his new way of life and has no one except Lestat to tell him how he must and should behave.  Louis soon learns that he seems to have retained much of his humanity, unlike his creator.  Later, Lestat makes a vampire of Claudia, a young girl.  Claudia and Louis are close companions and try to figure out how to navigate life in their immortal bodies.

The concept of the book is really neat and I would like to know what happens to the present day Louis who is being interviewed, but like I said before, the book is very wordy.  Sometimes the action was hard to follow because of the way it was told in a very thoughtful, eloquent, lengthy way.  Apparently some people really love this book, but I found it hard to keep picking up to read more.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Neat concept (especially in the 70s before the vampire theme was popular), inspiring character in Louis, way too wordy and meandering.

Stalking Jack the Ripper

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Stalking Jack the Ripper

By:  Kerri Maniscalco
Published: 
2016
# of pages: 
337 (Kindle edition)
Series: 
Stalking Jack the Ripper (#1)

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Goodreads description:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.


My review: 
I was excited by the description of this book and while it was slightly disappointing, it was still a fun read.  I had to keep telling myself that it was young adult and I’d probably enjoy it more as a teenager.  There’s young adult novels that are written to be just as enjoyable for adults as teens and then there’s young adult novels that are geared solely for young adults.  And this book falls in the latter category.

Audrey Rose is an aspiring forensic technician in 1880s London.  She apprentices for her uncle and nothing makes her happier than cutting into the cold flesh of corpses.  The problem is that her father doesn’t know she’s chosen an inappropriate career for a lady of that time.  Her secret life suddenly becomes harder to hide when one of the bodies she helps dissect turns out to be a murder victim of a killer who soon became known as Jack the Ripper.  Audrey Rose feels a kinship with the female victims and takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of the murderer’s identity.  Add in a handsome, mysterious young man named Thomas and things get even more complicated.

I figured out the mystery fairly early in the book, which I’m sure didn’t help with my opinion.  Audrey Rose is an interesting character, but whether purposefully or just because of poor writing, she’s very flighty and doesn’t come across as talented and intelligent as she should have been.  Thomas on the other hand…  I’ll admit, I have a little crush on him.  If I do read the next book in the series it will solely be because of Thomas.

Overall I recommend this book to young adults who are able to handle reading about some blood and gore (nothing too detailed).  The concept of a novel about Jack the Ripper is intriguing and I wouldn’t mind trying to find another one that’s better written.


Why I gave this book 3/5 stars: 
Cool concept for a young adult (or adult) novel, steamy male protagonist, main character was meh.

The Fifth Season

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The Fifth Season

By:  N.K. Jemisin
Published:  2015
# of pages:  496 (Kindle edition)
Series:  The Broken Earth (#1)

 

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Goodreads description:

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

My review:  I thoroughly enjoyed this fantasy novel!  The world building was extremely unique and so were the characters.  The timeline was written in such a great way, it really meshed together in spite of the difference in years.

The story begins with Essun, a heartbroken mother who is mourning the violent loss of her youngest child.  Her discovery of the child’s murder coincides with a nationwide disaster that will have far reaching consequences.  Essun is forced to leave the town she’s peacefully lived in for years to set out on a dangerous journey to find her daughter.  Essun has lived in secrecy for years, but knowledge of her power starts leaking through the cracks as she meets other people along the way.

The reader also meets the young and scared girl Damaya, the strong young woman Syenite, the broken man Alabaster, and the confident and boisterous man Innon.  Other characters pop up throughout the novel.  They are all written so well, you can just see them in your mind.  After I finished reading the book I immediately started looking up fan art because I wanted to see what other people thought of the characters and their descriptions.  Here’s my Broken Earth Pinterest board.

I’m eager to read the next two books in the series.  I highly recommend this book to fantasy fans.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Awesome world building, great characters, unique fantasy series.

Strain of Resistance

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Strain of Resistance

By:  Michelle Bryan
Published:  2016
# of pages:  314
Series:  Strain of Resistance (#1)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

My name is Bixby. I was 12 years old when the world ended. A mysterious mist had blanketed our world, turning most of the population into blood-sucking predators. The few of us left uninfected…well, we were the prey. Vanquished to the bottom of the food chain.

For eight years we’ve fought this alien war. Barely surviving. Not knowing which day would be our last. But now we face a new threat. The parasite that took us down is evolving. Becoming smarter. Stronger. Deadlier.

The infected took everything from me. My home. My family. The man that I loved. No more.

This is the story of our resistance.

My opinion:  I love a good “zombie” apocalypse novel.  This one has been on my TBR list for a couple of years.  I saw that it was 99 cents on the Kindle so I went ahead and bought it to read.  I don’t think the series is complete.  There are two books  so far and a 0.5 book, which I’m guessing is a prequel to Strain of Resistance.

The story follows Bixby, a young woman whose life has been shaped by the arrival of an alien species that takes over the bodies of millions of people on Earth.  Those bodies turn into predators that prey on the uninfected for eight years until things suddenly change…for the worse.  Bixby and her fellow survivors set out to discover just what has caused this change and encounter countless horrors along the way.  Bixby is also forced to confront her own emotions and learn to mesh her past, present, and future feelings.

I feel like this book borders on being young adult and adult.  There’s some almost graphic sex scenes, nothing too detailed, but it may be too much for some young adult readers.  There’s also some violence, but also nothing that solidly makes this inappropriate for young adults.  Overall, it was a fun read and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Strain of Defiance.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Quick and easy read, cool apocalyptic concept, Bixby is immaturely annoying at times.

Sunbolt

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Sunbolt

By:  Intisar Khanani
Published:  2013
# of pages: 
142
Series:  The Sunbolt Chronicles (#1)
Challenge:  Monthly Motif (Feb. – 1 word title), Full House (<250 pgs)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.

When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.

My opinion:  Wow!  An author friend of mine recommended this book to me a few months ago and I put it on my TBR list.  I put off reading it because it wasn’t available at my local library.  Now that I have a Kindle I was able to buy it for 99 cents so I went ahead and bought it.  I wasn’t expecting too much.  The book doesn’t have many reviews on Goodreads and it isn’t very well known.  However, I was very pleasantly surprised by this novella that takes the somewhat overdone young adult fantasy genre and slightly twisted it into something more unique.

The story is about a teenager named Hitomi who works with an group that secretly fights back against the corrupt ruler who has taken over Hitomi’s land.  Hitomi soon finds herself caught up in more than she bargained for when she joined the Shadow League.  She’s far from home, surrounded by dangerous strangers, and is forced to use her hidden powers more than she ever has before.

I loved the relationships and interactions in this book.  Hitomi is reckless, but you can see her growth throughout the novel as she becomes more thoughtful while still retaining her bravery.  I also liked that she isn’t perfect.  In one part of the book she makes a choice that haunts her afterwards.  I completely understand why she made the choice, but also why she later regrets that choice.  I think it’s what most of us would do in her situation.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, but I’m very sad that the series isn’t complete even though this book was published 5 years ago.  I recommend to adults and young adults, especially if you’re a fantasy fan.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Unique story, understandable and likable characters, well written.  I just wish it was longer!

Sleeping Giants

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Sleeping Giants

By:  Sylvain Neuvel
Published:  2016
# of pages: 
320
Series: 
Themis Files (#1)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

My opinion:  Sleeping Giants is a sci-fi novel told in the form of interviews and journal entries.  The plot is a neat concept and while I can see that the format may bother some people, I enjoyed it and thought it worked well with the story.

The interviews and journal entries center around a few main people, including Dr. Rose Franklin, who is heading a government department in charge of finding out more about the mysterious structure she inadvertently discovered when she was a child.  The structure is in the shape of a hand and was found in a pit lined by panels lit up by strange glowing symbols.

Years later Dr. Franklin works with military recruits Kara and Ryan, as well as a linguist named Vincent to discover exactly what the hand is and what it does.  We get to know the characters on a fairly personal level, but not as much as we would if this were written in a traditional novel format.  We do slowly discover what the discovery of the hand means for the world.  “Slow” is a pretty good description of the book.  I liked the format and the concept just fine, but I wish more had happened.  There were a few times the story seemed to jump around too much, but I think it was supposed to feel that way since it was written in pieces of interview transcripts and journal entries.

I am eager to check out the next book, Waking Gods!  I wish the series was already finished, but hopefully I won’t have to wait too long for the third book to be published.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Neat concept and unique format, but a little too slow at times.