Latest Reviews

fifty-year mission
my last continent
yoga of max's discontent - karan bajaj
love is red
pirate vishnu

Book Review: Dark Road Home – Anna Carlisle

dark road homeTitle: Dark Road Home
Author: Anna Carlisle
ISBN: 9781629536361
Pages: 304
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Mystery
Source: Publisher

Summary

Gin Sullivan likes her job as a medical examiner in Chicago. She likes not thinking about small-town Trumbull, PA, the hometown she left without looking back. But when she receives a phone call from the boy she used to love, Jake, telling her that, after all these years, Gin’s sister’s body has finally been found, she realizes that she has to go home and face the past that she’s worked so hard to get away from, and find out what happened to Lily once and for all.

Review

Life’s been busy lately, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. This year has been hard in myriad ways, and you’d think I’d want to read the happiest books I can in order to escape. My brain doesn’t quite work that way, though; when things get tough, I find comfort in mysteries that can pull me in from the very first page and that can make me forget about what I’m dealing with in real life for a few hours. Dark Road Home was absolutely one of these books.

Dark Road Home is a character driven as it is plot driven, and that worked very well. Gin’s a great character. On the surface, she has it all together: she’s successful, brilliant, has a great relationship—she looks like she has it all. But underneath the surface, things are different. I appreciated this novel because it didn’t use the trope of “woman who is successful at work but a mess in her personal life”; it’s much more nuanced than that. Gin seems to be a success in every aspect of her life, but her problem is that she doesn’t let people in. She’s isolated herself emotionally, and she doesn’t realize how bad it’s become until she returns home.

As you’d expect with a psychological thriller/crime novel, the plot of Dark Road Home is twisty from beginning to end; I saw some of these coming, while I was surprised by others. Towards the conclusion of the novel, it felt as if there was one turn too many, but I appreciated how Carlisle fit all the pieces together by the end. The atmosphere of this novel is also very well written; dark, gritty, and ominous, she nailed the vibe of a decaying small town.

Dark Road Home was the book I needed to read. I needed something that would capture my attention, fire my imagination, and keep me riveted from beginning to end, and it was perfect for that. I loved the small-town world that Carlisle built, and I’m hoping the author will choose to revisit it in sequels.

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Book Review: The Fifty-Year Mission – Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman

fifty-year missionTitle: The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years
Author: Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman
ISBN: 9781250065841
Pages: 576
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: History, Nonfiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years is an oral history of the first 25 years of Star Trek—from the beginnings of the original series through Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Review

I go back and forth on whether I actually like oral histories or not—they live or die by the way they are organized and who participates—but when I heard there was an oral history of Star Trek, I immediately knew it was something I had to read. I’ve been a Star Trek fan for most of my life, and when I love something, I like to learn about it in all its nitty gritty detail. While I’d heard quite a few of the stories and anecdotes shared in The Fifty-Year Mission, there were many, many more perspectives and stories I wasn’t aware of, and quite frankly, I found it fascinating.

The main reason I loved The Fifty-Year Mission is because I think the oral history format is uniquely suited to such a complex endeavor as Star Trek. We’ve all heard stories about how Shatner was difficult and overbearing or how there was tension on the set of The Original Series, but this time, you can hear it directly from the people involved in what was happening. You get to see multiple perspectives and points of view and understand that, in the end, these people were only human, no matter how large their legends are. The authors did an extraordinary job organizing the information and presenting a coherent story, and the breadth of people they’ve spoken to over the years (many now deceased) is simply astounding.

I was a bit worried that The Fifty-Year Mission would feel tawdry and gossip-y; after all, it’s exposing old wounds and weaknesses, putting them on the page for anyone to see. But thankfully, the book didn’t feel that way at all. It is frank—”uncensored,” as the subtitle puts it—and you really come to see how the various large personalities clashed all over the place, but it never feels cheap. Instead, it feels honest, like these people are finally getting the chance to tell their side of the story. But because the authors talk to so many people, there are many different sides presented, and it never feels like anyone is being vilified unjustly.

The second I finished The Fifty-Year Mission, I was ready to pick up the second volume. It’s not out until the end of August, so it gives all you Trekkies (Trekkers? Let’s not get started on THAT debate) a chance to devour this book first. Even if you’re not a die-hard Star Trek fan, if you’re interested in the way television and movies get made, or just interested in pop culture history, you should give this book a chance. The oral history format means it’s easily readable, and it just captures your attention from the very first page.

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Book Review: My Last Continent – Midge Raymond

my last continentTitle: My Last Continent
Author: Midge Raymond
ISBN: 9781501124709
Pages: 320
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

Deb Gardner has been coming to the Antarctic for years to study penguins, and it’s the only place she feels at home. It’s where she met the love of her life, Keller Sullivan, and where she feels fulfilled. The travel season for the Antarctic has recently begun, and Deb is a naturalist aboard a small tourist expedition ship. She discovers that Keller is a naturalist aboard a giant cruise liner, too large and unwieldy in the icy Antarctic waters, and when that ship encounters distress, Deb knows this season will be unlike any other.

Review

I’m going to try very hard to talk about why I loved My Last Continent. I already know I’m going to fail; the reason is that I have never been able to put into words why I love the Antarctic. It feels like it’s a part of me. When I was there last year, it felt as though I was reunited with a piece of my soul I never knew I’d been missing. I know what it is to be homesick for a place I’ve never been; now I am homesick for a place I probably will never go again. And the reason I loved this book so much is that it put all these difficult unexplainable feelings into words. Midge Raymond, through Deb Gardner, was able to write about these feelings I can barely make sense of, much less explain.

But that is why I loved My Last Continent. That doesn’t tell you why you should read this book, though trust me, I think you should. This isn’t your typical travelogue, an explorer’s narrative of the white continent. This is beautiful, lyrical, suspenseful literary fiction. You can get lost in Raymond’s words, her incredibly vivid descriptions. She writes about climate change without making the reader feel like she has an agenda (though, of course, she does. Anyone in love with the Antarctic has an agenda about climate change). She melds incredibly vivid descriptions with science, a love story, and a tale of suspense. I don’t know how she managed to spin such a complicated, intricate, yet beautiful and compulsively readable tale, but here it is.

My Last Continent jumps back and forth through time; Deb is the central character and narrator, and we see her past, present, and future with both the Antarctic and with Keller. Though it might be easy to classify this novel as a love story between Deb and Keller, it is much more complicated than that. This is the love story of Deb’s torrid affair with the Antarctic, a place that takes and takes and takes until you think you have nothing left to give. It is merciless and cruel, but it also provides the briefest moments of clarity and wonder that make it entirely worth it. It’s incredibly well done; over the years, the reader gets to know Deb and understand her relationship with this mysterious place; underlying all of this, though, is the tension of what exactly is going to happen with Deb and Keller and the shipwreck. Raymond lays the pieces of her story masterfully; her words are a precision instrument, taking the reader exactly where she wants them to go. It is excellent.

I could honestly go on for days about why I loved this novel so much, but trust me: I’ll never truly be able to put it into words. My Last Continent spoke to me on a fundamental level. But even if you don’t have that connection to the Antarctic, even if you know nothing about it, this novel is worth a read. It will introduce you to the white continent, give you some sense of how a minority of people feel about it, all while providing a gripping and thought-provoking read.

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Book Review: The Yoga of Max’s Discontent – Karan Bajaj

yoga of max's discontent - karan bajajTitle: The Yoga of Max’s Discontent
Author: Karan Bajaj
ISBN: 9781594634116
Pages: 336
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

To everyone around him, Max looks like the ultimate American success story: the child of Greek immigrants who grew up in the projects, who overcame his poor unbringing to be incredibly successful, make a lot of money, and live a fancy life in New York City. But underneath the surface, Max isn’t as happy as he appears. After a personal tragedy and a chance meeting, Max travels to the Himalayas in India to discover his true purpose and find the meaning of life.

Review

I know what you’re probably thinking. I thought it too when I first read the summary of The Yoga of Max’s Discontent. “Oh, it’s another one of those stereotypical books where a white person decides to ‘find themselves’ by going to India.” I was ready to pass this book on by when I saw the name on the cover: Karan Bajaj. And instantly, with the knowledge that this novel was actually written by an Indian man, my interest was transformed. I couldn’t wait to pick up this novel and see what Bajaj had done with this stereotypical storyline.

What I found was a gorgeous meditation on yoga, its place within Hinduism, and Hindu spiritual beliefs cloaked in the novel of one man’s journey to inner peace. I don’t pretend to be an expert on yoga, but I do sometimes become frustrated with the way it is practiced within the Western sphere (without the context of Hinduism and or any understanding of what yoga truly is). Yoga has become a thing people talk about over brunch mimosas, rather than a part of my religion and culture. I don’t begrudge its popularity, but it is nice to see it placed within its proper context, especially considering how easy-to-read and interesting Bajaj makes it.

I also appreciated Bajaj’s depiction of Max’s spiritual journey in The Yoga of Max’s Discontent. There were no fancy ashrams with juice cleanses and spas for Max. He is genuinely looking for spiritual enlightenment, and that quest is absolutely brutal. There are no easy ways to know and understand. Bajaj’s descriptions are just incredible here; you can picture every scene in this book vividly. I would call the prose in this novel lush, except that would be incongruent; the entire novel is spare, almost to the point of agony. The only extravagant thing about it is Bajaj’s beautiful prose.

I’ve talked a lot about why The Yoga of Max’s Discontent meant something to me, but the real question is: Is it enjoyable? And the answer is a resounding yes. There are certainly some difficult parts of the book, as Max faces real suffering, but it’s beautiful and moving, and you can’t help but feel enlightened after you read it. It’s a surprisingly fast read for such a heavy subject, and I highly recommend it.

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Book Review: The Fever – Sonia Shah

the fever shah

Title: The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years Author: Sonia Shah ISBN: 9780312573010 Pages: 320 Release Date: June 21, 2011 Publisher: Picador Genre: Nonfiction, Science Source: Personal Copy Summary Why is malaria such a modern-day scourge? Why haven’t we been able to eradicate it? And why is it mostly nonexistent in Europe […]

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Book Review: Love Is Red – Sophie Jaff

love is red

Title: Love Is Red Author: Sophie Jaff ISBN: 9780062346261 Pages: 384 Release Date: May 12, 2015 Publisher: Harper Genre: Contemporary Fiction Source: Publisher Summary Someone is murdering women in New York City, and there aren’t a lot of clues to go on. Women around the city are becoming fearful of being out alone, especially at […]

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Pirate Vishnu + Quicksand – Gigi Pandian

pirate vishnu

Title: Pirate Vishnu (Jaya Jones Book #2) and Quicksand (Jaya Jones Book #3) Author: Gigi Pandian ISBN: 9781938383977 Pages: 306 Release Date: February 11, 2014 Publisher: Henery Press Genre: Mystery Source: Publicist Summary In the second novel in the Jaya Jones treasure hunt series, Pirate Vishnu, Jaya must discover the truth about one of her […]

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Book Review: City of the Lost – Kelley Armstrong

city of the lost

Title: City of the Lost Author: Kelley Armstrong ISBN: 9781250092144 Pages: 416 Release Date: May 3, 2016 Publisher: Minotaur Books Genre: Crime Fiction Source: Publisher Summary Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret in her past that she’d like to make sure stays hidden. But when her past catches up with her, and […]

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