Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"The Passage" by Justin Cronin

Tami read this book a while back and had planned to read the sequel. We picked up this audio book to refresh her memory and get me up to speed.

Summary: In the jungles of South America, a strange virus infects an academic team. The U.S. military quickly establishes a program to research the virus and weaponize it. The virus brings on a dramatic transformation in the victim that turns them into fast, nocturnal blood-suckers. Twelve death-row inmates were the first guinea pigs and did not show the desired effects. One more subject was given the virus, but before the results could be analyzed, the facility fell and the subjects escaped. Quickly the whole continent was infected and the life as we know it is gone.

Years later the survivors struggle to make a living in a world filled with the infected creatures, called virals. Bright lights protect the isolated colony of survivors, and everyone has a job to do. But there are signs that the colony cannot last. Slowly, a plan comes together and an adventure begins.

What I Liked: There's a lot to think about in this book. The virals are fascinating, the characters are well rounded and the plot is compelling.

Tami enjoyed the layout of the plot.  The first half of the book is back-story to the action that takes place 100 years in the future.  The back-story written in such a compelling manner that it might just be my favorite part.  There is something morbidly fascinating about watching society as its known fall.

What I Didn't Like: I realized too late that this is the abridged version. I then wondered what scenes I missed. Also, my favorite character died really early.

Tami thought it was scary, and there were parts that turned my stomach.  But each bit of the plot was necessary to advance the story, so I suffered through it.

Rating: This has all the right elements of a post apocalyptic story. I recommend it.

Also Read by this Author: None.

Reviewed by: Nick (with Tami chiming in)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Going Clear" by Lawrence Wright

I heard about this book when it was being made into a movie. Then I saw it on it the shelf at the library and picked it up.

Summary: This reads like an in depth expose on the church. The book explores the biography of Hubbard and the history of the church from its founding. It starts with a look at Hubbard's life as a science fiction writer and naval officer. It reviews deception in his service record and his injuries. It then goes into the creation of dianetics which evolved into the modern church. There was a significant period where the church was mainly sea-going and struggled with prohibitions in several countries. They endured a long legal battle with the IRS and governments in Europe.

Eventually, the church is accepted as a legitimate religious organization and grows. Much of their energy is spent on recruiting and maintaining celebrity members including a strong presence in Hollywood offering classes and workshops for movie stars. This book takes a close look at how the church treated Tom Cruise and John Travolta. It also has a lot to say about Paul Haggis, a famous screenwriter, producer and director. It examines claims of physical and psychological abuse in the Sea Org (the clergy) and the many practices of the church that have given it the terrifying reputation it has today.

What I Liked: Before this book I did not know much about Scientology beyond the rumors I heard from atheists and critics of the church. After this book I have a better grasp of what the church is like on the inside and what were major events in its timeline.

What I Didn't Like: This book was exactly what I hoped it would be. The only downside to an audiobook is that I don't have the same ease regarding citations.

Rating: Very informative. I recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about Scientology.

Also Read by this Author: None.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell

I saw mini reviews of "Fangirl" posted around Instagram I liked the cover, and people seemed to really appreciate the story, so I picked it up from my local library!
Image via Goodreads

Summary:  Cath is your average 18 year old on the cusp of college...well, average if you're afraid of change, confused by normal social interactions and obsessed with a boy wizard.  (So in my experience, average.)

"Fangirl" is about a girl who goes to college for the first time and finds herself totally out of her element.  Cath starts off alone, intimidated by her new life and a little scared to take the next step into adulthood.  She'd be just fine back at home, sharing her bedroom and her love of Simon Snow fanfiction with her twin sister, keeping track of her depressed dad, and eating from every taco truck in sight.

But college forces everyone to grow up, whether they're ready or not.

Cath soon finds herself making friends with her kinda-scary roommate, co-writing a story with a kinda-cute guy from her creative writing class, and learning about herself outside of her role as twin sister, daughter, and superstar fanfic writer.  Oh, and she meets a man.

My Thoughts:  Good books take the reader through a range of emotions as the story progresses.  "Fangirl" was no different.

I started out uncomfortable, possibly because Cath hits a little too close to home.  She's so anxious about starting college that she spends all her time in class or hiding out in her room.  Going to the cafeteria in her dorm or talking to her roommate are too much for her.  I can relate to this, as my own freshman (and sophomore....and junior) years were quite similar.  Because of my personal experience, and because I know what it's like on the other side, I was uncomfortable and at times disappointed in Cath for letting her anxiety keep her from meeting people and experiencing new things.

As Cath branches out beyond her dorm room, I got more comfortable with the story and started to revel in Cath's quirkyness.  Cath is unashamed of her obsession with the wildly popular Simon Snow series.  She revels in total lack of desire to party with her sister.  And she loves a good hipster sweater.  While Cath has a penchant for crying that occasionally made me want to punch her in the face, her quick comebacks and good heart kept me cheering her on.

Then there is sadness.  So much sadness.

And then there is the ending.  But you'll have to read the book to find out if it's happy or not.

Rating:  I recommend it, and I'll read it again.

Also Read By:  None, but I'll check out more by Rainbow Rowell

Reviewed By:  Tami

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Doomed" By Chuck Palahniuk

This is the sequel to Damned which I enjoyed. I listened to it as an audiobook.

Summary: Madison Spencer is a ghost. She spent time in Hell, and on Halloween she returned to the land of the living. If a ghost leaves Hell on Halloween, they must return by midnight, or be stuck in the mortal realm until the next Halloween. Madison missed midnight and began to settle in for the year. Like the previous book, this one has two intermingled stories. The story is presented as a series of blog posts, often referencing other users' comments and questions.

The first is a flashback to when Madison was a child, focusing on a long stay with her grandparents in upstate New York. She becomes interested in Darwin and goes on a Naturalist adventure. She then finds herself in a terrifying situation and recounts the death of her grandparents. Throughout these retellings we see the clues to a larger conspiracy to shape Madison's fate.

The other story follows Madison as a ghost while she stalks her parents. They hire a paranormal investigator to locate her. The investigator operates by overdosing on drugs and having near-death experiences where he then talks with ghosts. He finds Madison and escorts her to her parents who have built up a cult. In the previous book, Madison had instructed her parents to do a list of bad deeds in order to guarantee their family would be reunited in Hell. Madison told them she was in Heaven, and as they are world famous celebrities they shared the instructions with their followers. The cult of Boarism developed in which everyone is offensive, but no one takes offense. This new religion then takes an apocalyptic turn that has Madison worried.

What I Liked: This book builds off the first and answers many questions. It also develops the plot, bringing it to a new level. I love the little details Palahniuk includes, making the world feel immediate and real.

What I Didn't Like: This book has the single most disturbing death scene I have ever read or watched. It is described in careful detail and involves some very disgusting elements. It might haunt me forever.

Rating: I enjoyed this as a sequel as it fills out a lot of the story and builds on it, but it was not as compelling as the first book.

Also Read by this Author: Fight Club, Damned.

Reviewed by: Nick