Latest Reviews

Visions cover
dataclysm cover
the children act cover
Station Eleven cover
The Furies cover

Book Review: Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters coverTitle: Broken Monsters
Author: Lauren Beukes
ISBN: 9780316216821
Pages: 448
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre:  Crime Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

When the body of a boy is discovered, Detective Gabriella Versado knows there’s something strange going on. Because it’s actually only half the body of a boy; the other half is that of  a deer, fused with the young boy’s remains. Versado must investigate this grotesque case, dealing with a killer whose twisted nature she can’t fathom, while her daughter, Layla, finds herself in over her head in more ways than one.

Snapshot Review:

A novel that crosses genres, Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters is a creepy novel with amazingly drawn characters and an intricate, masterfully plotted storyline.

Full Review:

Let’s talk about creepy novels. I’ve read my share, and I’ll admit I do really enjoy them. I can’t really watch scary movies because I’m too much of a wuss, but for some reason, I can deal with scary novels. More than deal, in fact. So when I heard that Lauren Beukes’ new novel Broken Monsters was the creepiest of the creepy, I knew immediately I had to read it. And wow, this book did not disappoint.

Broken Monsters definitely is a slow building novel. That doesn’t mean it’s slow overall—I was definitely hooked from the beginning—but that it takes time for the story threads to come together and the narrative thread to fully form. Being along for this journey means that the reader gets to see Beukes’ skill at manipulating her characters and storyline, building the tension for the story. And when she bends the narrative further than you’d ever thought it could go, your only choice is to follow willingly, mesmerized by this author’s skills.

Beukes also does an incredible job with her characters. There are quite a few of them, and it takes time to sort them out, but she draws each so singularly that they quickly burn themselves into the reader’s memory. Each has their own issues; I found Layla’s storyline especially intriguing. She’s smart and capable, worthy of being treated as an adult, but sometimes she just wants to crawl into her mother’s arms at the end of the day. It’s so interesting to see how all of these disparate characters intersect, their separate stories merging into a shocking conclusion.

It’s difficult to put into words how different this book is; all I can say is that was drawn in immediately and captivated by the story Beukes was telling. If you like books that defy genre conventions, that are so singular as to be difficult to classify, then you should absolutely read Broken Monsters.

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Book Review: Visions – Kelley Armstrong

Visions coverTitle: Visions
Author:  Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: 9780525953050
Pages: 464
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Mystery
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Olivia Taylor-Jones has settled in Cainsville and is still working to clear the names of her birth parents, accused of killing multiple people. But Olivia is about to get a lot more than she bargained for when she finds the body of a young woman in her car, dressed like her. Gabriel and Olivia must figure out who this woman was and why someone would want to hurt Olivia, and they disturb some powerful supernatural forces in the process.

Snapshot Review:

Olivia Taylor-Jones is back in Visions, the sequel to the slow burn supernatural novel Omens, and now the focus is less on her birth parents than herself. Olivia broke away from the privileged lifestyle she was accustomed to in the first book; she struck out on her own and was determined to make it work. Now, in Visions, the reader sees Olivia struggling to make it on her own. It makes for some interesting character development. The mystery in this novel is slow and takes awhile to unfold, as the focus is on the character rather than the plot. More is revealed about the nature of Cainsville and what is happening behind the scenes, but there are still enough mysteries to leave readers guessing. Those who enjoyed the first novel should certainly be interested to see where Armstrong takes her characters, and leave them eagerly anticipating the third book in this entertaining series.

Other books by Kelley Armstrong:

Omens

Affiliate Links:
Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Book Review: Dataclysm – Christian Rudder

dataclysm coverTitle: Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking)
Author: Christian Rudder
ISBN: 9780385347372
Pages: 304
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Crown
Genre: Nonfiction, Social Science Study
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

The dating site OKCupid is one of the largest in the United States, and the founders and operators have always been transparent about the fact that they use the aggregate data from the site to look at trends and statistics. In this book, OKCupid founder Christian Rudder looks at all the data the site has gathered over the years and uses it to come to some startling and fascinating conclusions.

Snapshot Review:

A riveting look at data and what it says about us as people, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) is an absolute must read for anyone who loves nonfiction and social science research.

Full Review:

I am an unapologetic geek when it comes to data. I love spreadsheets and lists, and I love to see what the information that I gather says about me. That’s why I found the idea of Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) is so fascinating. Rudder takes the data he’s gathered over years of OKCupid use to tell us some really interesting things about people in general. Of course, he is very up front about the fact that the demographic is incredibly skewed: single people in a certain age range with a certain socioeconomic status. He’s not trying to claim that the users of OKCupid are representative of the United States or of the world, but that doesn’t mean what he finds isn’t relevant or fascinating.

One aspect of Dataclysm that is very interesting is the way Rudder frames the material—in that he doesn’t. Usually, in books about data, the author uses a story to hook the reader and provide examples of what he or she is discussing (think Malcolm Gladwell telling a bunch of stories to make the same point. He could try and show it with pure data, but he thinks that the stories will be more interesting for the reader.) Rudder doesn’t do that. He presents the data without a frame or story, focusing instead of the numbers themselves. It makes for an intriguing read, but what it also means is that there are a lot of numbers, graphs, and charts. Rudder presents his data well, clearly and efficiently, but this is not a book to read if you’re exhausted. You need to be in the mood to really look at the numbers and understand what they mean; doing so makes for a revelatory read.

If you’re generally a fan of nonfiction and are interested in societal trends, then Dataclysm is a book you should consider. Rudder studies such varied things as racism, sex, and love within our society and comes to some surprising conclusions. There were some things that made my blood boil in this book (especially the study of the average age of women that men at any age find attractive versus the opposite) and many things that just made me think (such as analyzing the strength of my relationship/marriage based on our Facebook friend groups). I’ve purposefully not included much information about what the book discusses because it’s much more fun to explore it and find out for yourself. Though you need to be mentally engaged, it’s actually an easy read and you’ll certainly be riveted by what you discover.

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

 

Book Review: The Children Act – Ian McEwan

the children act coverTitle: The Children Act
Author: Ian McEwan
ISBN: 9780385539708
Pages: 240
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Literary Fiction,
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Fiona Maye is a judge for the High Court of London, dealing with cases that pertain to family issues. Her home life is in shambles, after her husband drops an unexpected bomb on Fiona, and she focuses on her work in order to avoid thinking about it. When a case comes Fiona’s way involving a provocative Jehovah’s Witness, a seventeen-year-old boy named Adam who is refusing a blood transfusion that could save his life, she finds herself more involved than she should be, and she wrestles with her conscience trying to do the right thing.

Snapshot Review:

A gorgeous novel, The Children Act combines thought-provoking issues with emotionally resonant characters; it’s McEwan’s best book in a long time.

Full Review:

Oh, Ian McEwan. I could write an entire ode to how and why I love your novels, even the ones that aren’t so good (Solar). But there’s a time and a place for everything, and right now I’m not trying to discuss why I love Ian McEwan, but instead, what The Children Act did for me. And I will say it did something profound: It reminded me why I love Ian McEwan. It’s a slip of a book, to be sure, but it’s thoughtful and moving and really is his best novel in years. If you haven’t picked up a McEwan novel and don’t know where to start, do it with this book.

Fiona is an interesting character in The Children Act. For someone with a job that requires her to be decisive, she’s quite the indecisive person. When her husband gives her his news, Fiona’s reaction is to shut down and not face the problem head on. Instead, she buries herself in work, but even there, she has trouble making decisions. It doesn’t help that the situation surrounding Adam’s case is so complicated. Adam is an interesting counterpoint to Fiona, someone who is absolutely sure of himself. He’s so young, but so righteous. He has no doubts he’s making the right decision by refusing medical care, whereas Fiona is filled with nothing but doubt, unsure of herself on any front. It’s doubly interesting because the reader gets the sense that Fiona wasn’t always like this; her domestic issues have thrown her off balance completely.

The Children Act is a short book; the reader is dropped into Fiona’s life, stays for a short time, and then departs, leaving Fiona to live the rest of her life. McEwan brings these characters to life fully and completely; they exist in real life as much as they exist on the page. The issues McEwan grapples with are also complex; should a person be forced to have a blood transfusion they don’t want if doctors are certain it will save his life? Is Adam being influenced by his parents or his religious community, or is his decision his own? Does he even have the right to make that decision, given that he’s a minor? It’s a fascinating debate, and McEwan shows the reader the different sides of it through Fiona and her research.

One of the best things about The Children Act is its length. Don’t get me wrong, I like long books. But sometimes, you just want that breath of fresh air, the slip of a book that will affect you profoundly and leave you shattered. This is absolutely that novel; it’s provocative and will make you think, but it won’t take weeks to read. It’s amazing what McEwan did with so few pages, and I absolutely recommend this book to both longtime fans and those new to his work.

Other books by Ian McEwan:

Saturday
Solar
Sweet Tooth

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Book Review: Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven cover

Title: Station Eleven Author: Emily St. John Mandel ISBN: 9780385353304 Pages: 320 Release Date: September 9, 2014 Publisher: Knopf Genre: Literary Fiction, Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: One night, a performance: Arthur Leander, a once-famous actor, dies of a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That same night, a mysterious illness begins […]

Continue reading →

Monthly Review: August 2014

Number of Books Read: 21 Number of Book Reviews Posted: 16 Posts, Features, and Random Musings Let’s Talk about My Little Free Library Book Club Suggestions if Your Most Diverse Book Club Pick was The Help [external link: Book Riot] On Reading Your Book Club Book When You’re Note Interested in Your Book Club Book [external […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: The Furies – Natalie Haynes

The Furies cover

Title: The Furies Author: Natalie Haynes ISBN: 9781250048004 Pages: 304 Release Date: August 26, 2014 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Genre:  Contemporary Fiction Source: Publisher Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Summary: Alex Morris has decided on a fresh start in Edinburgh after tragedy shattered her life. She’s conducting drama therapy sessions/classes at a school called “The Unit,” which plays host […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors – Nayomi Munaweera

island of a thousand mirrors cover

Title: Island of a Thousand Mirrors Author: Nayomi Munaweera ISBN: 9781250043931 Pages: 256 Release Date: September 2, 2014 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Genre:  Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction (South Asian) Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: Yasodhara has a happy childhood growing up in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She’s barely aware of the conflict between the Tamil and Sinhala people, […]

Continue reading →