Westlake Soul by @Rio_Youers

I have an affinity for books I like to refer to as beautifully sad. I don’t search these types of books out, rather when I read one that is such it seems to touch my soul and resonate with me. Maybe it’s due to my own internalizing and holding things in that I find the beautifully sad so relatable. The way these type of books aren’t afraid to bear all emotion is a kind of release I don’t allow myself too often.

Westlake Soul, a surfing champion, suffers a catastrophic injury, resulting in being in a vegetative state, unable to move or respond to anything. The only communication Westlake is capable of is with his beloved dog Hub. Westlake is in a battle to find his way out of his immobile prison and return to the life and relationships he cherishes.

I went into this book thinking it was a different type of story. One of horror and terror rather than one of emotion and a different kind of fear- fear of the possible end. The reader gets to know Westlake through his memories of life before his accident, and he’s a likeable dude. An easy going surfer who is happy with his life and its direction. The accident doesn’t change his mindset at all, just allows him to be even more appreciative of how he has lived so far and use that appreciation to try and find a way out of his current state.

Youers does sprinkle the book with touches of sentiment, though it is the perfect amount. Allowing the reader just enough emotion and feeling and then being able to move on. He captures emotions and feelings in realistic ways without being manipulative or duplicitous.

This is the second book of Youers I’ve read and I’ve enjoyed both in totally different ways. This one, however, is one of those books that was unexpected to me. Mainly due to the impact it had on me. Every reader has a different experience when reading a book. This one is beautifully sad to me and I couldn’t be happier with that experience.

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The Year in Reading 2017

Every year I hope to read 52 books in one year. I’ve never been able to do that and this year is no different. This year was a paltry 25 books read. I really thought I was closer to my 52 book goal but ended the year just under half of that. 

Lack of meeting my goal aside, a few of my favorites:

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi – Scalzi is a prolific sci-fi writer and this book was a bit of a departure from that style. However the quality of writing/story did not suffer at all. A fast paced and compelling story combined with excellent illustrations, this short story was my top read this year.

Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers – The Spider still tickles my brain after reading this thriller. A forgotten love with a mystery connection made this book a unique read. If you are looking for a good thriller, pick this book up.

Anything by Chuck Wendig – three books in my stack by Wendig and each one was read in two days (or less). Wendig has a way of pulling the reader in and making an intimate connection. No matter what was going on around me, I was fully engrossed in the story. It felt like a deep conversation with a close friend you only get to see every few years. I look forward to reading more of his books in 2018

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy – Technology runs our lives. What happens when nefarious entities take control of that technology is frightening.

So many books, so little time to read them. 

Owen and Stephen King Sleeping Beauties Tour

“He’s so fucking weird.”

That’s what Owen King said about his father, Stephen King, when asked a question during their September 30th appearance at The Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. The two writers made a stop in my hometown promoting their new novel Sleeping Beauties and I was able to grab a few tickets to the show.

As a lifelong S.K. fan I was beyond thrilled at finally having a chance to see King in the flesh. Their new book is about what happens if all the women in the world fell asleep and kept on sleeping. They didn’t talk too much about the book, focusing more on the interaction between themselves. It was more like listening to two friends hang out and talk to each other. Father and son clearly have a good, close relationship and they played well off of each other.

The elder King had recently turned 70 and the younger King joked about the olders memory and then pulled out the Stephen King trivia book. Stephen is a prolific writer with well over 50 books, many of which have dozens and dozens of characters in each book. Impressively Stephen got three of four questions about Misery correct. It was fun to watch S.K. answer one right away, pause for a beat with two, and fail on one.

The last part of the show was for audience questions. And of course the lines at the mics were insane. Given Stephen’s popularity, almost all questions were for him. I felt a bit bad for Owen on this but S.K. did a wonderful job at answering questions while also bringing Owen into the response or finding a way to have Owen respond. There were a few cringe worthy questions but those were handled with respectful deflection by both authors.

The night went fast and was everything I hoped it would be. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to see S.K. in person and to finally have the dream come to fruition was incredible. The night ended on a really high note for me. All attendees got a book with their tickets and 400 books were signed by both writers. These signed books were randomly given out as the audience was leaving and I was fortunate enough to receive a signed copy (A friend who attended the show with me received one as well!). Fullfilling another lifelong dream – to have a signed book by Stephen King. Needless to say my night was made. An appearance I will always fondly remember and a book I will treasure. This constant reader could not have been more happy.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Jawp-1472254326241.jpgson Dessen left the bar in a bit of a huff. A small disagreement with a longtime friend has made him upset. He makes one stop at the store for some ice cream before going home, but the fateful stop ends much differently than Jason expected. He ends up being thrust into a world that seems his own but isn’t. His wife is not his wife, his son doesn’t exist, his co-workers and friends he does not know, and everything about his hometown is slightly off.  Where is he and how can he possibly make it back home? What if he’s trapped here forever? Questions that Jason struggles to find answers to. And answers he may never get.

Wow. That’s what I thought while reading Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. A sci-fi thriller that moves at a blinding speed and, while it does have some predictable moves, keeps the reader’s interest and doesn’t disappoint. Jason and his wife have made some sacrifices in favor of family life in terms of career goals. These sacrifices have made for a very happy family as well as a happy life. That life is ripped from Blake’s world in a unusual way. The reader figures out fairly quickly what has happened, but that doesn’t take away from the story.

Dark Matter has a terrific pace, some due to the writing (single line paragraphs that eat up space) and some due to wanting to find out what happens next. I found myself quickly attached to Jason, thanks to well developed characters by Blake. As for the predicable part, it’s not that it makes this a bad book in any way. It’s just a fact for most of the book. Until it takes an unexpected turn that most, well, at least me, readers didn’t see coming. Which piqued my interest even more and made me want to keep reading.

This book stayed with me for several days after reading it. I wasn’t even able to start up another book until two days later, and even then, I was still thinking about Dark Matter. I find myself wishing I could read it anew again. This seems like heavy praise but this is the effect this book had on me. This is the first book of Crouch’s I’ve read. I watched the t.v. show Wayward Pines, based off of his books, but I hadn’t read anything before this.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a fast, interesting read, has characters to care about, and has an outcome that was unexpected.

Wednesday night book haul

New books on a Wednesday night? Weird I know. I don’t usually make a stop at the bookstore midwp-1470937404975.jpg-week, but my book-club met last night and we were just down the street from my local B&N so stopping by made sense.

This week I picked up three new books: Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch, The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating, by Carole Radziwell, and The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer.

I watched Wayward Pines, based off of books from Blake Crouch, and enjoyed the t.v. show.  I hadn’t read any of his books before but the reviews of Dark Matter have been positive so I thought I’d give it a chance. It’s about a guy who wakes up to a life that is not his own and he has no idea who the people around him are. Sounds like a good “where the hell am I” story.

The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating is my next book club read. My fellow clubbers and I have all had a stressful past few weeks and I recommended this book as a good, mindless, fun read. Nothing too heavy or serious since we all could use a bit of brightening of mood. This one is written by Carole Radizwell, most recently known for her role on Real Housewives of New York, but she’s got the skills and experience to back it up – a BA and a masters, and she worked for several years at ABC News – so it’s not one of those “I’m a reality star and now I’m a writer” things.  The plot of the book somewhat mirrors Radziwell’s own life – a woman widowed at a young age who finds herself out in the crazy dating world. Seems like this one will be a fun one to read.

And the third book, The Cemetery Boys, is by an author that I’ve read before. Heather Brewer wrote The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, a YA vampire series that I liked quite a bit. This third buy is about a teenager and his family who are broke and need to move in with his grandmother to a small, creepy town.The teenager meets a girl and her twin brother and things get strange after that.  Again, not a deep thought read, but since I liked the author I figure I’d give this one a chance.

Percentage chances of me reading these books:

  • The Widows Guide to Sex and Dating – 100% It’s for my book-club and I’ve read every book so far. Plus,this is one I picked to read, so it’s being read
  • Dark Matter – 95% I’m curious about this book since it sounds so interesting. Slim chance it’ll sit in my TBR pile for a long time
  • The Cemetery Boys – 85% Probably won’t read this one right away, want to read a few others before it. Certainly another that won’t be relegated to the TBR pile for long

Look for more book haul posts since one of my addictions is buying books. Hope you enjoyed this one.

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Life suReady Player Onecks in 2044.  Most people live their lives via the virtual reality world OASIS – a free online, VR place for people to “live”. Wade Watts spends almost every minute of his waking life there, hoping to find a better life in a fake world.  When the creator of OASIS, James Halliday (who was also the richest man alive), dies he leaves a puzzle within OASIS where, after someone finds all three hidden keys, that person will inherit Halliday’s money.  Needless to say, this starts a frenzy of action since everyone desperately wants to be the winner. Wade doesn’t realize his quest for the keys will be fraught with danger and unexpected surprises.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, was recommended to me by a friend.  I have to admit the synopsis I read for the book didn’t sound all that enticing to me. I’m not a gamer and I had a hard time thinking that a book based in a VR gaming world could be good. But I gave it a shot anyway since I usually end up enjoying books this friend recommends. Happily,  I wasn’t disappointed with this one.

RPO is loaded with 80’s nostalgia and reading this book was like a trip down memory lane for me.  Cline is spot on with his references and you can tell he actually lived though and grew up in the 80’s rather than researched the 80’s. The James Halliday character set up his game so that those trying to find the keys would have to have almost the same knowledge of the 80’s as he did.  This means that Wade has spent hours upon hours watching, reading, listening, and researching every single pop culture, and non-pop culture, eventh, thing, or moment that happened in the 80’s. This isn’t to say Wade doesn’t have any friends.  Well, not in the real world at least.  He’s got a few close friends within OASIS, though no one has ever met the other in person.

And that is the basis of this book.  Not the 80’s tsunami of information or the additive world of gaming and VR.  It’s the strong relationships that are formed within OASIS that is the driving force. One can live in a fake world but one still needs to have other people to talk to, to get to know, to feel a connection with, even if they’ve never met face to face. The strength of Wade’s relationship is what makes him a likable person and helps him on his quest for the keys.

The first quarter of the book is very heavy with tech references. This is necessary since the book needs to set the VR world and explain how it works, how others interact within it, and how dependent upon it everyone appears to be.  Once you get past the techy stuff, the book progresses nicely and becomes more interesting.  Wade goes up against a mega corporation that wants to win the quest so that they can then start charging people to use OASIS. The struggle between Wade and the corporation forces Wade to get to know his VR friends on a much higher lever and work together in order to have a chance at winning.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book and was very happy to have read it. RPO is more about the strength of relationships, even if you’ve never met in person, not allowing yourself to become isolated due to fears of rejection, the never-ending corporate greed, and a tiny bit about the environment.I highly recommend this book, even if you don’t find video games or VR interesting. This book has so much more to it and is well worth the read.

Redshirts by John Scalzi

It’s twpid-20151021_074435.jpghe year 2465 and Andrew Dahl has just joined the crew of the ship Intrepid as part of the xenobiology lab.  Dahl will have a the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015chance to serve on away missions with the ship’s captain and a few other high level officers. Only, things seem a bit odd.  Dahl’s lab mates seem evasive and conveniently disappear whenever the captain makes an appearance.  Dahl has also noticed that away missions tend to always involve a deadly alien encounter, the captain, along with a handsome lieutenant and three other high-ranking crew members, always survives, and a low-level crew member always dies on an away mission. Always.

What’s goodRed Shirts by John Scalzi is a humorous riff on old sci-fi shows and I really enjoyed the idea behind it.  Scalzi writes instantly likable characters who try to figure out what is going on with their ship while trying to avoid getting killed themselves. It’s a tad campy at times but I took it that it’s supposed to be that way. It’s a quick read and I did chuckle/laugh out loud a few times. After the end the are three codas told in first, second, and third person points of view. These three codas (the original name of the book is Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas) focused on three later characters and were all exceptionally written and very heartfelt.  I almost teared up during one of them and I dare say I liked the codas even better than the main book.

What’s not so good: Well, not much really.  The only thing that I didn’t enjoy was an over reliance on the use of “….he/she said.” I found it a tad distracting that almost every time there was a line of dialogue from someone, the line would be identified with “…Dahl said; …the captain said…”, etc. I actually started to omit reading those qualifiers as the book went along. Other than that, I found the book to be very enjoyable.

I don’t want to give away too much of the book since the reason for the crew members always dying and the high-ranking officers always surviving is a goofy, fun reveal that sets the plot for the rest of the story.  Redshirts was a fun, fast read that had likable characters and a good ending. The three codas were standouts for me, though I certainly enjoyed the whole book.  If you are looking for a fun, sci-fi read, or just an enjoyable read, I highly recommend Redshirts. You shouldn’t be disappointed.