I have been among many greatly anticipating the second book in the Clifton Chronicles and I am happy to report that it doesn't disappoint. I would say that The Sins of the Father is a faster moving and even more intriguing story then the first. The book jumps literally right as the first left off giving you answers to questions that we have been wondering about since the end of the first book. The Sins of the Father covers a lot of ground in terms of years, but once again ends with a nail biting cliffhanger that makes the wait for Book 3 even more difficult to bear.
If a friend walked up to me and said, Joel you really need to read this book The Rithmatist. It's about a boy who goes to school at a university where half the students are Rithmatists. What are Rithmatists you ask? Well they draw circles and figures on the ground with chalk and fight each other. The book is about a boy who's not a Rithmatist but gets involved in an investigation on a few Rithmatist who have disappeared. I'd probably laugh and say something snide and completely dismiss the book.
And to be honest it would be a shame because behind this bizarre idea is a pretty good book. The story revolves around Joel (great name) who's attending the university for the best and the brightest after his father passed away in an accident many years before. When some students start to go missing Joel is there to help the Professor Fitch solve the mystery. There is nothing about The Rithmatist that's entirely new or original but its a good story. There are some good twists albeit not shocking.
The Rithmatist is classified as a young adult novel and some of the hindrances of that label hold the book back. There are so many fantasy novels with kids attending school that some tropes feel a bit overused. And yet I still enjoyed the short read and might even continue the series if/when the next book is released.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a beautifully written novel. It's one of the best written novels I've read in the past couple of years. Truly incredible, and yet I could not get into it. No matter what I tried to do I couldn't get into this tragic World War II tale. I tried re-reading parts, I took a break from it, and eventually just decided to push through. You ever read something and know its great but just not for you? That's how I felt with All the Light We Cannot See.
The novel follows two teens in Germany and France during World War II. Mari-Laure a blind girl in Paris France lives with her dad who works at the Natural History museum. Then you have Werner a young boy who loves fixing/building radios. There stories are told concurrently and for me just never were that interesting. That's horrible to say I know but I just could not get into their tales, their families, or their journey.
I get that this might make me come across heartless, but for me I was just bored. I finished this book to more relief then anything. I knew the entire time that this was a brilliantly written book but one obviously not written for me.
I'm not sure California by Edan Lepucki deserved the Colbert bump. The book was featured a month before its release on The Colbert Report, when Stephen Colbert was reporting on the Hachette v Amazon dispute. The concept sounded fascinating. A husband and wife in California after the world has been desecrated. You never do learn what happened but it sounds like a combination of war, global warming, and society just breaking down.
So what's wrong with California the novel? Pretty much everything. The book doesn't really have the necessary elements of a good story. Like a beginning middle or end. The book is just there. You meet the focus of the book Cal (short for Calvin and also his nickname California) and Frida who are living in the wilderness after escaping Los Angeles. Without going into too much of the plot (or the minor resemblance's of a plot) its about their survival and the survival of those around them.
I was listening to the audiobook and kept looking at the time left in the book and was wondering when something was going to happen. Yet nothing ever really happens. Frida complains and Cal consoles, and their characters switch roles a few times, but in all honesty nothing happens in this book. Both characters come off flat, and just have little to no redeeming quality.
I guess that's my biggest issue with California. Where in a book like The Road you've got the main protagonists to root for in this bleak existence, I found myself not necessarily caring about what happened to any character in California. And then the book just ends. Rather abruptly going ahead briefly in time and then just ends. I listened to the ending a few times hoping that I missed something. Nope the book just ends and thus ends my review on California. An interesting concept that led to a lackluster book.
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.
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