Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Seventh Book Review: “Sleeping Giants” by Sylvani Neuvel

“Sleeping Giants” by Sylvani Neuvel was such a fun read, a big thank you needs to go out to the guy at work who gave me the perfect book to get into the sci-fi genre – “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. Enjoying that book as I did led me to choose “Sleeping Giants” as my book of the month a few times back. The only disappointing part of this book was that it was on the short side and the sequel isn’t due out until April 2017. Cue my sad face. But in the meantime, I am eager to continue my foray into science fiction and convince as many other people as possible to participate in that journey.

“Sleeping Giants” was told not as a narrative, but as a series of discussions much in a Q&A fashion. There is one consistent character, which is never identified, that interrogates all the other characters in this book. I think this was an especially successful way to write this book because it was focused around a monumental discovery. “Sleeping Giants” opens with young Rose sneaking out of the house after her birthday party to take a spin on her new bike. She ends up wiping out and falling into a huge hole. When she is rescued, we learn that she landed in a huge metallic hand. Flash forward seventeen years later where Rose has been recruited to study this one piece in a very large puzzle. The more answers that are found however, the more questions that arise – including if this is a force that should be tampered with. “That also scares me. Am I ready to accept all that may come out of this if it works? It might also have the power to kill millions. Do I want that on my conscience? I wish I knew where this journey will take us, but I don’t. All I know is that this is bigger than me, my self-doubt, or any crisis of conscience. I now truly realize how profoundly insignificant I am compared to all this. Why does that make one feel so much better?” (Sleeping Giants, pg 81)

There were a lot of philosophical questions brought to light in “Sleeping Giants” as you would expect when dealing with scientific discoveries that prove there is something bigger out there in the universe. It was really interesting to see how different characters react to the different developments and obstacles that come up as the story progresses. Although I think the style in which the book was written is intriguing, there are some drawbacks, mainly the fact that you are only privy to the surface level of each character. You don’t get to see into their minds and learn about the characters beyond the dialog that is exchanged.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think that there is a wide range of reader that would enjoy “Sleeping Giants”. This is a science fiction novel that is accessible and interesting. I am eager to see where the series goes and cannot wait for the next book to come out.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Sixth Book Review: “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Bryn Greenwood

What does love look like? In “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Bryn Greenwood, we follow Wavy as she tries to find her way in the world. Her parents are useless – negligent at the least but ready to shell out abuse whenever they take notice of her. The only family she has left after her parents are thrown in jail are her grandmother and her aunt. When thrust in with her extended family, Wavy refuses to follow any rules. Her mere presence puts a tremendous strain on her aunt and the fact that she refuses to talk, refuses to eat, and will not allow anyone to touch her, especially contribute to make Wavy a challenge.

Wavy comes to realize that the people in her life try to make her fit in one particular space. When she finally meets someone that doesn’t spend his time trying to change her in any way, is there any surprise that they build a relationship? “After Liam and Butch took Kellen away I thought about how he left spaces for me when he talked. If I saw him again, I decided I might put words in those spaces.” (All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, pg 28).

There were so many weird parts to this book. On the one hand, Wavy is the main character and throughout the book we are learning more about her and how she is treated and what expectations others put up for her. It isn’t surprising that she does her own thing. So when she starts to fall for Kellen, you can’t help but cheer for them. That is, until an outsider observes them. And you realize that it is weird. That if your niece was in a similar situation that you would fight tooth and nail to protect her. That this relationship is for lack of a better word – icky.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. It was really well written and I liked the different characters. And it was definitely a book that made me think. But it is a little messed up. There are plenty of ugly things that come into play in this book and I was a little uncomfortable at times. So I wouldn’t recommend this book to the public at large. But I am glad that I read it and I would definitely pick up another book by Bryn Greenwood.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Second Book Review: “The Verdict” by Nick Stone

“The Verdict” by Nick Stone was the kind of book that completely sucked you in from the very start. I haven’t really read any legal thrillers, but when I saw the book tagged that way I thought why not? I am glad that I took a chance and have since stocked my to-be-read list with other legal thrillers. A whole new sub-genre has been opened up to me thanks to Nick Stone’s writing.

At the beginning of “The Verdict” we meet Vernon James. He is a self-made millionaire accepting an “ethical person of the year” award right before he tries to pick up a tall blonde woman to take up to his hotel room after he tells her has an open marriage. One thing leads to another and the night ends up not going as Vernon had planned. The next thing we know, Vernon has been arrested for murder. Then we meet Terry, a struggling legal clerk that seemingly has just been given his big break with the chance to be a part of the team defending Vernon James. That is until we learn that Terry and Vernon have a very colorful history. “Of course it was a shock to anyone who found out a close friend or good neighbour or amiable work colleague was really a serial killer or rapist or some other kind of monster? All we know of other people is what we see reflected of ourselves. Beyond that they’re strangers.” (The Verdict, pg 27). I really liked this quote because it is a good point – we don’t know what goes on in the mind of those around us. There were several times when reading “The Verdict” where Stone’s writing made me pause because I liked the way that he spelled out something.

I liked that the main character Terry wasn’t a clean-cut ‘good guy’. He had demons that he constantly had to curb. I thought Nick Stone did a great job portraying the balancing act that someone would have to go through when the person that knows their darkest secrets is suddenly on trial for murder and working directly with their bosses. His moral compass was also slightly askew, but that just made Terry all the more interesting.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, it was such an entertaining read. Nick Stone’s writing was excellent – he successfully pulled me into the drama surrounding Vernon and Terry. I thought his characters were well developed and I liked how there were little twists and turns throughout the novel. I think anyone with a mild interest in thrillers would love this book. If you’re the kind of reader that loves an edge-of-your-seat read, then you need to pick up “The Verdict” by Nick Stone.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixty-Fifth Book Review: “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

“The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney was described to me as a book about a dysfunctional family. When I heard that, I pictured “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – a fun, light story about a quirky dysfunctional family. That is what I expected from “The Nest” and that is not at all what was delivered. It was not so much a drama/comedy as it was just a full drama. Not that I dislike dramas, but the suggested comedy was part of why I chose this book. This was no lighthearted read.

The first person in the dysfunctional family that we meet is Leo. We soon learn that he is an overindulgent, entitled, selfish man-child. “The bubbles rising and falling on Matilda’s tray felt like an ecstatic summons, an invitation meant just for him.” (The Nest, pg 2). This expectant attitude that he has towards everything in his life is part of what made him so distasteful to me, but it did catch up to him within the first few pages.

Dysfunctional seems an inadequate word to describe this family. I found it really difficult to like most of the characters. It was more: here is a book about a family full of terrible people and what they do to each other. There were some characters that were more despicable than others. Leo was pretty bad. After meeting the mother of these five adult children, it makes a little more sense why they are the way they are. The combination of the two of them, Leo and his actions, and his mother, who tries to keep up appearances, actually bring the rest of the family closer together as a united front against them. But each person had his or her own way of being kind of terrible. And I found the whole concept about what the nest was a little hard to relate to personally. I liked Bea’s character, but the rest of her siblings and almost everyone else in the book was very difficult to like.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no…I think that it was a good read and I became absorbed in the novel when I was reading it. But at the same time, I didn’t like a lot of the characters, which makes it harder for me to enjoy a book overall. I think if this book was pitched to me differently, or not at all, I would have enjoyed it more. Going into reading the book with certain expectations made the whole reading experience a little more challenging to enjoy. But I think Sweeney did capture the characters’ difference voices well and the plot moved along quite nicely. I would pick up more of her work.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixty-Fourth Book Review: “No One Knows” by J.T. Ellison

“No One Knows” by J.T. Ellison was a thrilling read full of twists. When we meet Aubrey she is several days away from her husband being declared legally dead. It is something that her mother-in-law has been pushing for but which Aubrey refuses to accept. The deeper we get into the story, the easier it is to understand Aubrey’s reluctance to write off Josh as dead and the more questions pop up that make his whole disappearance all the more mysterious.

What really made this an intriguing read were the characters. They all were flawed – some of them more so than others and it was impossible to tell from one moment to the next who was being truthful and who was not to be trusted. Even Aubrey wasn’t certain that she was a good person: “She’d been anesthetized against compassion. That made her a sociopath, didn’t it? / It was a horrifying thought. Surely it wasn’t entirely true… / A psychopath then. Able to feel, but always choosing to follow the wrong path.” (No One Knows, pg 156). Aubrey was an interesting character. She had a rough childhood, her parents died and she got put in the foster system. Although she knew Josh since they were kids, his mother did everything possible to keep the two of them apart, including calling the cops on Aubrey when she walked in on the two of them together as teenagers.

It was obvious from the start that Josh’s mother was unhinged, full of rage, and completely delusional. “ Josh wasn’t Tom’s son, not really, yet Tom had adopted him soon after their marriage began, had always loved him like his own, even when Josh was at his worst. She didn’t like having to share her grief with her husband. It was hers, hers alone, a tight ball of perpetually sustained energy that kept her body animated, jerking along like a zombie from day to night to day again.” (No One Knows, pg 54/55). Where most people would want to share their grief with a loved one, Josh’s mom is selfishly upset that her husband is grieving too. It was a really odd situation and I spent a great deal of time hating her.

Would I recommend this book? Not to everyone. It reminded me a bit of “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn where I wasn’t sure if I liked most of the characters; although I enjoyed “No One Knows” a lot better than “Gone Girl”. It was an exciting read and I hope that J.T. Ellison continues to write. I just learned that there are several more books out there by J.T. Ellison and I cannot wait to get my hands on them.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixty-Second Book Review: “I Let You Go” by Clare Mackintosh

“I Let You Go” by Clare Mackintosh was such a thrilling adventure. I started reading it one Saturday morning and finished it before the day was over. I absolutely devoured this novel and my only regret is that the other book that Clare Mackintosh has written thus far has not been released yet. So I must wait. I’m hopeful that there are even more books in her future (and therefore, selfishly, my future).

Within the first few pages of “I Let You Go” it was clear this was not going to be a happy book. A five-year-old boy gets hit and killed by a car. This book is about the aftermath of that incident and it is told through several different characters’ perspectives including the investigators on the case. This was where you could see a little bit of Mackintosh’s background peeking though with the realistic aspects of police work during an investigation.

I really liked the way that this book was written. The perspective jumped around between the characters and Mackintosh kept her readers guessing how everyone was connected. There were several unexpected twists in this book that continually lured me in. I think the way that Mackintosh illustrated the grief that some of these characters experienced made “I Let You Go” all the more compelling. I really enjoyed this quote: “The grief I feel is so physical it seems impossible that I am still living; that my heart continues to beat when it has been wrenched apart. I want to fix an image of him in my head, but all I can see when I close my eyes is his body, still and lifeless in my arms. I let him go, and I will never forgive myself for that.” (I Let You Go, pg 40). There are many gut-wrenching parts to this novel, and the guilt co-mingling with the grief blends so well, especially in this passage.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!! This was such an amazing read and I think it would appeal to a wide range of readers. That being said, this isn’t a book for the faint of heart. There are many parts of this book that are awful and could even be triggers to some people. But it was so well written and thrilling that I think it is well worth the read. I cannot wait to get my hands on more of Clare Mackintosh’s writing.