After reading The Last Policeman earlier this year I'd been interested in continuing the series but not rushing to it. I love the concept. A young policeman at the end of the world. An asteroid is only months away from making impact and destroying the world, and yet Hank Palace still wants to bring justice to a crumbling society. My biggest problem with the first book and continued in Countdown City is that Hank Palace doesn't feel real. He's like an ideal that everyone should strive to be like but you know that no one in that situation would.
In Countdown City he takes on the case of his child-hood babysitter who can't find her husband. Like any good detective novel Hank goes after this seemingly straightforward case that turns out to be anything but. As the book describes they're only months away from the extinction of humans, a lot of people are going missing, so finding one man is no easy feat. The best parts of Countdown City are describing the ways in which people are coping. Some hang on religion, others form militias, and others retreat to even more primitive means.
Its an interesting concept and a decent detective novel. It's a shame that both areas can't shine throughout the entire novel. There are just far to many head-scratching decisions that keep this series from being great. Countdown City is a short solid read but not all that memorable.
I don't read a ton of non-fiction but every once in a while a book will come along that peaks my interest. The last one I read was the fantastic 1776 (almost ten books ago for me). However a couple of months back Michael Lewis had an excellent interview on Jon Stewart about his new book Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt and I instantly went on Audible and purchased it.
Flash Boys is a book about high frequency trading and how it has changed the market completely. I know so little about the way in which the stock market actually works that the idea that a ton of money is being made at fractions of a second was fascinating. But what's even more fascinating is that the people who are considered great traders have no idea what their actually doing and how it all works. A good number of the big executives of financial firms have no idea how HFT (high frequency trading) actually happens. There is this almost laissez-faire attitude about it.
Although I admittedly didn't follow everything, the broader message of this novel was fascinating. A group of traders start to see something is wrong with the market and set out on personal quests to both understand it and bring change to the market. I very much enjoyed Flash Boys and am really glad I read it. It's a really interesting story and one that shed a lot more light on a market I still don't understand but understand far better then i did before reading this book.
Mr. Mercedes follows retired detective Bill Hodges who never cracked the Mercedes killer case. Brady Hatfield (Mercedes killer) mowed down a group of waiting applicants at a Job Fair and got away with it. What ensues from that point is a pretty straightforward thriller albeit an enjoyable one. The story goes back and forth between the retired detective and the deranged serial killer showing the two paths getting closer and closer to converging into a last second stand off.
Even though Mr. Mercedes was entertaining I had major issues with a lot of the side characters. They were paper thin and offered nothing to the story. I wanted more of Hodges and Hatfield and less of the fluff. None of it felt believable or added it to the story. Can we really believe that a decorated retired detective would want the help of a minor? King took so many leaps of faith for Hodges to even get close to connecting the Mercedes Killer with Brady Hatfield that at several points I chuckled.
King has said this is the first book of a trilogy, but I don't see it. It feels like King wanted something in the line of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but this is not even close. A fun summer read but nothing more then that.
I read the first novel in The Century Trilogy, Fall of Giants a couple of years back. I enjoyed it a lot but for some reason I put off reading the second book. After starting a couple of books that I couldn't get into I decided to jump back in. For those that don't know this is a trilogy of novels that takes place from 1900-2000 and follow a number of different families from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Russia.
Winter of the World takes place right after the events of Fall of Giants. So right right at the end of World War I and the rise of Nazi Germany. What's fascinating about these novels are reading about the daily lives of those who lived through these world wars. Forget the battles but what about the people back at home? What was it like for a young German girl in Berlin for example who opposed to Nazi's? It's an interesting question and one that Follett does a great job with and was by far my favorite part of both Winter of the World and Fall of Giants.
My biggest issue with both books but more so Winter of the World was keeping track of all the moving parts. There were a number of characters in the first book that now have families of their own and trying to keep track of it all is difficult. There were several times where I knew there was significance to an interaction but couldn't place where these characters paths crossed in earlier novels.
Needless to say even though I couldn't place all of the characters I still really enjoyed Winter of the World. It does a great job of having some of the key characters involved with many of the major world events of the time period (WWII, Pearl Harbor, Atom Bombs). I'm now even more excited to finish off the trilogy this fall when Follett releases the final book in the series.
Going into any book about The Holocaust you know your in for an emotional roller-coaster. The Auschwitz Escape follows the fictional tale of Jacob Weisz a German Jew who ends up in the worst of all of the death camps, Auschwitz. The novel is beautifully written. It keeps a very steady pace while taking the necessary time to build up characters and give us even more to cry about later.
Like many other books on The Holocaust, this will absolutely pull a few tears out of anyone that reads it. The brutality of these camps and all that the Jews had to endure were horrific. It's a tough read and there were a few days that I just couldn't get myself to listen to the book. There are some scenes during Jake's time at Auschwitz that are a level of brutality that is hard to even listen to.
For all the excellent writing there were some plot elements that get in the way from this being a truly stellar book. The last quarter of the book turns Jake away from the character we read about for the first three quarters of the book and makes him more of an action hero. It didn't fit his character nor his personality which made it seem out of place. There were also a few times where things seemed to work out to perfectly for Jake just to help move the story forward.
All in all I would still highly recommend this novel. Even with its few faults this is still one of the best novels I've read in 2014. Not to mention the last couple of chapters were a beautiful way to finish off what is a great story.
Winter is Coming sort of felt like a cash grab. I'd consider myself a fan of the series but not nearly as hardcore into Game of Thrones as many. Like most I read the books and am now thoroughly enjoying the HBO series. After receiving a credit on Audible I purchased Winter is Coming: Symbols and Hidden Meanings in A Game of Thrones to try and get a better idea of what is to come for the rest of the series.
The first half of Winter is Coming is far more interesting then the second. More then anything it focuses in on Jon Snow and Daenerys Targareyen and their importance to the series. There was some interesting pieces pulled from both the show and books that I overlooked but that do point to the two connecting at the end of the series. Where this book lost me is its parallels to real-life history and religion. I'm sure George R. R. Martin used things from this world to influence his novels but that was far less interesting to me then the predictions for the end.
Even for the couple of dollars the book costs, I'd rather have read Game of Thornes message boards then read this one again.
Last year I read Rob Lowe's first book, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. It was one of the best autobiographies I've ever read. Rob Lowe is an actor I really never followed until he joined the Parks and Recreation cast and became the star of that show. His character on Parks and Recreation was one of the main reasons why Jenn and I sticked with the series. He played the extremely positive boss/health nut who "literally" never had a bad thing to say about anyone.
Rob Lowe recently released his second book, this one titled Love Life. I thought going in that this might be a deeper look into his teen idol sensation which made for some of the most interesting stories in his first book, but it really wasn't. More then anything Love Life was actually about his deep love and passion for life. The book jumps all over the place, from his days as a child, to minutes before he finished the first draft of the book. Unfortunately unlike the first book this one just jumps around so much that its hard to understand what his main goal was for this book.
That's not to say that it wasn't highly entertaining, because even with the books shortfalls its still a very entertaining book. Having got the audio version, Rob Lowe reads his own novel and for me that really makes an autobiography. You can hear his love for his family, his deep devotion to his friends, and the genuine honor he feels for the life he's lived.
Unfortunately even with all the good vibes, Love Life just feels like the cut/missing chapters of his first novel. There still highly entertaining but lack the substance and the structure to make it a lasting memory like his first novel. Rob Lowe has a sincere talent for writing and I cannot wait to see what else he writes in the future.
After reading my first Brandon Sanderson novel a couple of months back (Steelheart) I decided that I would give one of Sanderson's older books a go. After a lot of research I decided to start the Mistborn series and am glad I did.
Like any first book in a series, Mistborn: The Final Empire takes a long time to get going. Possibly longer then most. There was a point (probably a quarter way through) that I wasn't sure if I was even going to finish it. However just when I thought about throwing in the towel, the stars aligned and the novel started to take shape. At the half way point of Mistborn: The Final Empire I was hooked.
This probably is the first novel that I've read that would be considered a "high fantasy" novel. The book has a very in-depth magic system that might sound extremely nerdy but is super easy to understand and get on board with. The way in which Sanderson is able to build this world and get you to buy in is pretty great. There were a few times that I rolled my eyes at a line of dialogue but for the most part the character development is top notch.
Mistborn: The Final Empire wasn't my favorite fantasy novel but I think it laid the ground work for an interesting series.
Be Careful What You Wish For is at the very least a better novel then the previous entry into the series, Best Kept Secret. However for a series that started off as splendidly as this, its still a let down from the first two novels.
Be Careful What You Wish For picks up minutes after the cliffhanger from Best Kept Secret and continues down the winding road of mysteries that is a Jeffrey Archer novel. For the first two novels of the series all the twists and turns seemed justified. Unfortunately this family feud that continues in this novel just isn't as interesting a driving force as before. Sure there are reasons why the Cliffton's have enemies but the lengths in which both sides go to seems extreme.
I've found all the novels enjoyable, but not with the same vigor I had at the start of the series. I'm concerned as well that the series doesn't have enough power behind it to make it to the end of the planned seven book series. The good news is this novel does end with an interesting cliffhanger that leaves me just interested enough to come back again.
I'm a giant sucker for all things time travel. One of my favorite novels of all time 11-22-63 by Stephen King focused on a very finite couple of years in time. Alternatively Replay by Ken Grimwood follows Jeff Winston who dies of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 43 and wakes up as his 18 year old self. The twist of this time traveling novel is that their isn't a DeLorean to drive to the past but instead his life continues to rewind to his college dorm until October of 1988 where he will eventually die again of a heart attack and start over again.
Each Replay for Mark is vastly different. The world around him is the same but his decisions are vastly different. For example the first time he travels back he decides to bet big on sporting events (like in Back to the Future II) and starts his own financial company called Future Inc. The second time he goes for love and family, and so on and so on. The book feels like a cross between Back to the Future and Groundhog Day. But more then anything it really does make you think. If I was to wake up at 18 and have the ability to replay my life what would I do.
What's probably the most fascinating (no spoilers I promise) is the heartbreak. Just by telling you that Mark gets to replay his life means that anyone he loves in one life he will have to start over with at 18 years of age once he reaches 1988. A pretty crazy idea right?
To me though Replay is haunted by this amazing idea for a novel. Or in other words Ken Grimwood bit off more then he could chew. I think the 20+ year time frame that Mark gets for each replay is far to vast for him to make each replay compelling. And even with some twists half way through the story the end of the novel left me disappointed. The closure the book gives feels inconsistent with the rest of the novel. It felt like he had a great idea but couldn't figure a clean way to wrap it all up.
I truly enjoyed Replay more for the thought provoking concepts that it brings up rather then for the novel itself. Which is a shame because the base concept of the novel is beyond fascinating.
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