Becky’s Two Hundred and Eighty-First Book Review: “Horns” by Joe Hill

What would you do if one day you woke up and discovered you had grown horns? Not only that, but your horns had a strange psychic kind of power and influence over other people. You suddenly have the ability to hear the worst things people think. And you can push people with your horns to do the terrible things they want to do in the darkest parts of their minds, but normally would never actually go through with. That is the strange situation in “Horns” by Joe Hill.

Ig, our main character, wakes up the morning after drinking very heavily and pissing all over the memorial to his dead girlfriend with such horns. The girlfriend that everyone thinks he murdered. At first he is resistant to the idea of interacting with anyone and then he realizes that this newly discovered power could be the key to solving Merrin’s murder. Is it a gift? A curse? Or a bit of both? “It did no good to tell himself that it was all in his head if it went on happening anyway. His belief was not required; his disbelief was of no consequence. The horns were always there when he reached up to touch them. Even when he didn’t touch them, he was aware of the sore, sensitive tips sticking out into the cool riverside breeze. They had the convincing and literal solidity of bone.” (Horns, pg 24). I like the way that Ig starts to roll with the punches in this book.

Ig is an interesting character. He’s not exactly a good guy and it’s a little difficult to tell if that is who he always was or if Merrin’s murder is what really led to him becoming this bitter person. The addition of horns is more understandable the more we learn about what Ig has been through and how he views the world. I do enjoy the way Joe Hill writes. He is talented and his mind goes places that are intriguing to say the least. I enjoyed the way that we learn bits and pieces about the other people in Ig’s life. Mainly we get a peek at what Merrin was like and we learn about his unlikely friendship with Lee. Everyone it seems has a secret to hide. Hill certainly has a talent for developing disturbing characters with multiple layers. Just when you think you know what a character is about, they do something to surprise you.

Would I recommend this book? Not to everyone, but yes. For those that can appreciate the dark humor that is prevalent in Joe Hill’s book would certainly enjoy “Horns”. It was a real page turner; I could not put it down. I look forward to reading whatever Hill comes up with next.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixtieth Book Review: “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey

“The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey was an okay book. When I first saw the preview for “The 5th Wave” I had two thoughts: that movie looks terrible and I want to read that book! Conflicting thoughts – I know. Once I started the book, I did need to push myself to continue with it for the first few pages. Despite all efforts, it did start out a little slow. Once I got caught up in the story however, I devoured it.

Cassie Sullivan (named after the constellation, not the myth the constellation is named for) is the main character and she did make for an interesting one. In some ways, she was strong, resilient. She saw what happened to the world and she chose to fight for her life and her brother. She relies on herself and trusts no one. “In the 4th Wave, you can’t trust that people are still people. But you can trust that your gun is still your gun.” (The 5th Wave, pg 8). I thought this was a pretty badass statement. She has a few of those and even though she is only sixteen, the world being what it is has forced her to be realistic and, by most standards, darkly pessimistic. “The thing about killing is you don’t know if you can actually do it until you actually do it.” (The 5th Wave, pg 11). On the other hand, she didn’t seem quite believable. It wasn’t like in “The Hunger Games” where I could relate to Katniss and really be part of the book. And it wasn’t like “Divergent” where Tris was someone I could admire and relate to. Cassie was just there, I wasn’t about to cheer against her, but I was not naturally inclined to cheer for her. Cassie was just not what I look for in a female protagonist.

I thought that while the overall idea of a teenage protagonist in a disintegrating world is not that original, the way that the world is invaded captured my attention and the systematic elimination of resources and in turn people, was interesting. I wasn’t blown away by Rick Yancey’s writing, and I think that is part of what took me so long to really get into the book. This is no groundbreaking piece of literature that will be talked about for years and years to come. But the direction that he took things was definitely intriguing. I did like how Cassie was not the only one telling the story. Having different characters in very different situations can be a great way to illustrate a novel more fully and I thought this was well done. The voices between the characters were different enough that you weren’t confused halfway through the chapter as to who was narrating. It kept the pace of “The 5th Wave” moving and made for an overall more enjoyable read.

Would I recommend this book? Yeah, probably – it is worth reading. I do have the second book in the series and I’m hoping that Rick Yancey’s writing improves as the series progresses. I am curious about what direction the series will be going in, especially because the book didn’t end exactly the way that I anticipated. “The 5th Wave” was enjoyable enough. I wouldn’t necessarily rush out to buy your own copy, but borrow from a friend or the library for a quick read.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Fifty-Sixth Book Review: “World War Z” by Max Brooks

“World War Z” by Max Brooks was a really entertaining read. It isn’t written as a novel, rather the book is a series of interviews taken in a post-apocalyptic world. The content and style of this book is explained from the start: “Zombie remains a devastating word, unrivaled in its power to conjure up so many memories or emotions, and it is these memories, and emotions, that are the subject of this book.” (World War Z, pg 1). This made for a very interesting and dynamic read. I couldn’t put the book down.

Zombies are very popular nowadays, so it is challenging to write something that will stand out. Despite the fact that this book has been on shelf for a long while, I delayed reading it after seeing the preview for the movie by the same name. It looked like pretty much every other zombie movie. It wasn’t until I saw a review about the movie stating that it was nothing like the book that my interest was renewed and so I finally picked up the book.

I was impressed with Brooks’s ability to write from so many different perspectives. He has his own voice throughout the book as the interviewer, and then the people that account for their stories during the Zombie War range from all different ages, sexes, ethnicities, classes, locations, occupations, and so on. I thought this was an intriguing way to read a book. It is rare to jump from so many different perspectives, but it definitely kept the book interesting and made it stand out. I liked that there were those in denial during the beginning of the outbreak and just somehow managed to survive. There was one kid that was so wrapped up in the news about the outbreaks and communicating this over the web with others that his entire building including his parents either disappeared in hopes of refuge somewhere else or became a zombie. Then there were those that in a panic head north for the cold, packing their computers and chargers and not bringing enough warm clothes or food. These stories are what kept this book on a semi-realistic level. If there was an outbreak, this is the kind of thing that you would see happen. I liked that Brooks thoroughly explored different viewpoints.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – I think it is one of those books that would appeal to a range of different kinds of readers. It is a history of the Zombie War, but it is much more interesting than any history book that I’ve ever picked up. It isn’t overly gruesome or violent, and therefore would appeal to those that normally steer clear of zombie books because of the gore. It was a very straight-forward and logical take on what the world would go through – and how people would be affected afterwards – in the event of a Zombie War. I would be interested to read more of Max Brooks’s writing, I would be curious to see if this is the only style he writes in or if this was just how he wrote “World War Z”, either way, I’m game.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Fiftieth Book Review: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card was amazing. I love to read, but I so very rarely pick up anything resembling science fiction, I didn’t think this would be much different. But boy, was I wrong. I was hooked from the beginning.

When we first meet Ender, we learn he is a Third – population control is very strict and only a select few can have more than two children. This alone makes him stand out. We learn bits and pieces about the world that Ender was born into. We know that the enemies are aliens that have been named Buggers. We know he was brought into the world because his two siblings were so close to being what was needed, and so there is even more pressure on him to be perfect. What we don’t know is what the government is looking for, and what would make Ender an ideal candidate. The distrust that Ender holds for almost everyone is engrained early on. “Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth.” (Ender’s Game, pg 2).

What I thought was really interesting throughout this novel was the duty that was often preached to Ender. All the terrible things that he found himself subjected to, they were all necessary to help him do what needed to be done. “Human beings are free except when humanity needs them. Maybe humanity needs you. To do something. Maybe humanity needs me – to find what you’re good for. We might both do despicable things, Ender, but if humankind survives, then we were good tools.” (Ender’s Game, pg 35). I thought this was a curious way to look at things. We learn the soldiers that Ender joins are in training to make sure that humanity is prepared for the next time the Buggers attack. In order to make the ideal soldier, children are the test subjects and are pushed to the limit – many are pushed beyond the breaking point. And it is near impossible to know what is a test. “Ender understood more than she said. Manipulation of gravity was one thing; deception by the officers was another; but the most important message was this: the adults are the enemy, not the other armies. They do not tell us the truth.” (Ender’s Game, pg 82). Again, at Ender’s core he distrusts the adults. After everything they put him through, it isn’t all that surprising.

Ender was a fascinating character. His ability to keep going even when everything was in his way was impressive. His ability to stay cool under pressure, and most importantly (in my opinion), his ability to hold onto his humanity and the basic belief that good will triumph – that is what made him so special. “He could see Bonzo’s anger growing hot. Hot anger was bad. Ender’s anger was cold. He could use it. Bonzo’s was hot, and so it used him.” (Ender’s Game, pg 87). I liked this quote; I believe it illustrates well how wise Ender can be.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – and to all different types of readers. I am not one to pick up science fiction and I wouldn’t have picked this up if not for it being a gift. But I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. It is well written, Ender is a great character, and the science side isn’t overdone. I would especially recommend this book to other readers that don’t often, if ever, pick up science fiction. I’m eager to branch out into this genre, which for so long I bypassed. That’s how good this book was – it opened up a whole new genre to me.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Forty-Eighth Book Review: “Room” by Emma Donohue

“Room” by Emma Donoghue was a real page-turner. I added this book to my wishlist after seeing the preview for the movie. It’s funny how a lot of times I will see a trailer for a movie and think – oh, I want to go read the book that’s based on. But I’m weird, so whatever. It was a captivating novel that I could not put down.

What makes this book a fascinating read is that the story is being narrated by a five year old. We meet Jack on his fifth birthday, which is when his Ma decides that he is old enough to learn the truth – that there is a whole world outside Room. “Before I didn’t even know to be mad that we can’t open Door, my head was too small to have Outside in it. When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I’m five I know everything.” (Room, pg 102). The way that Jack learns was very well done. His genuine curiosity and how he reacts to everything is realistic, endearing, and at times very funny. I think Emma Donoghue captured his voice well. Writing from that rare perspective created a really interesting narration.

I liked the way that we learned bits and pieces about Jack’s Ma through her either telling Jack directly, or him overhearing her talking to others later on in the novel. Stuck in the room with her son, she did a remarkable job teaching him everything she could about taking care of themselves and making life for him as normal as possible. She taught him to read and write and speak and count. The relationship between Jack and his Ma is a little odd and unquestionably codependent. It is clear that the reason that Jack’s Ma did not lose her mind being captive for all those years was because she had Jack. He became her world, just as she was his. He was the one good thing that came out of her kidnapping.

Their adjustment to life Outside was intense and at times Jack was very insightful. “When I was four I thought everything in TV was just TV, then I was five and Ma unlied about lots of it being pictures of real and Outside being totally real. Now I’m in Outside but it turns out lots of it isn’t real at all.” (Room, pg 277). I really liked this quote.

Would I recommend this book? Yes – but not to everyone. Since the book is narrated by a five year old, it is a little challenging. His thought processes are not complete and in some cases can jump around. It was very accurate to the way a five year old speaks, but it was a bit confusing. Once I got a few pages in, however, I could not put the book down. It was a really exciting read and I look forward to reading Emma Donoghue’s other works.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Forty-Seventh Book Review: “The Choice” by Nicholas Sparks

I picked up “The Choice” by Nicholas Sparks because I knew the movie was coming out soon and I must read the book before I see the movie. And really, if there is one thing that Nicholas Sparks is good at, it’s making you really upset with love. And so I dug into the story of Travis and Gabby in order to find out what choice needs to be made and by whom. But that is not something I am going to give away, you’ll have to learn that on your own.

Gabby was a pretty funny character and I found myself relating to her a lot. Her determination when she thinks she is right, her strong beliefs, her parents – there were quite a few similarities. “But she couldn’t deny that family was important to her. That’s the thing about being the product of happily married parents. You grow up thinking the fairy tale is real, and more than that, you think you’re entitled to live it. So far, though, it wasn’t working out as planned.” (The Choice, pg 35). This quote really spoke to me; I’ve definitely been there. I was a little ruined as a kid having grown up with my parents that are super in love, and having watched as much Disney as I do – I really did believe that the fairy tale was a given. I certainly had to kiss my fair share of frogs before finding my own prince. I liked that Gabby had that uncertainty in her life and although she wasn’t unhappy with her life, she knew there was something missing.

Gabby’s solid attitude is part of what throws her off so much when she meets Travis. She very quickly learns that he is carefree almost to a fault, which is so different from her own demeanor. Having lived her life so safely, Gabby was captivated when learning about all the places that Travis has traveled. “But I’m different now than I was then. Just like I was different at the end of the trip than I’d been at the beginning. And I’ll be different tomorrow than I am today. And what that means is that I can never replicate the trip. Even if I went to the same places and met the same people, it wouldn’t be the same. My experience wouldn’t be the same. To me, that’s what traveling should be about. Meeting people, learning to not only appreciate a different culture, but really enjoy it like a local, following whatever impulse strikes you.” (The Choice, pg 102). I liked this quote because I think it gives some insight into Travis as a character. The way that he explains traveling around is so similar to how he behaves day to day. He spends his time really living as much as he can. He travels, he does extreme activities, and really, he does whatever he wants to. That is the carefree attitude that he has, which is part of what Gabby finds so frustrating and refreshing at the same time. It isn’t as simple as falling in love for them, which is part of what made this a good read.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, but not to everyone. It certainly was not Nicholas Spark’s best work. There were plenty of sappy moments as only Nicholas Sparks can write. It was captivating enough that I continually felt drawn to the book until it was over. And yes, I cried. Nicholas Sparks is a jerk and I should know better.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Twenty-Third Book Review: “The Martian” by Andy Weir

When I first saw the previews for the new movie starring Matt Damon called “The Martian,” I was definitely interested. Shortly afterwards, I found out that the movie is based on a book of the same title by Andy Weir. Being a true worshiper of the written word, I proclaimed that I would not see the movie before reading the book. In a shocking twist, the book was gifted to me by my husband who very much wants to see the movie in theaters. Being the dutiful wife that I am, I brought the book on our honeymoon so I could finish it as quickly as possible.

In case you haven’t seen the preview, “The Martian” follows Mark Watney’s struggle to survive after being left behind on Mars. It was a freak accident that led to his situation – a major storm blew in and forced his crew into an early evacuation of their mission. During this storm, an antenna pierces Mark’s suit and breaks the part of his suit that communicates to the group his vitals. The crew has to accept that he has died and get off the planet before they too suffer the same fate. The book starts off with Mark recovering consciousness and basically coming to the conclusion that he is fucked.

Part of what is so much fun about this novel is what a lovable dork Mark Watney is; his good humor helps to keep his own morale up as he tries to deal with this impossible situation. “In high school, I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. (You may not have guessed this botanist/mechanical engineer was a bit of a nerd in high school, but indeed I was.)” (The Martian, pg 23/24). There are constant moments throughout the novel that I found myself reading aloud to my husband just because whatever Mark Watney said made me laugh. I especially liked: “If you asked every engineer at NASA what the worst scenario for the Hab was, they’d all answer “fire.” If you asked them what the result would be, they’d answer “death by fire.”” (The Martian, pg 29).

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Martian” and delving into the mind of Mark Watney. He was such a loveable character and you couldn’t help but cheer for him. There was a fair amount of technical language and math/science thrown in the novel, but it wasn’t overwhelming. This was largely in part to the ever-present humor, which made this such a great read. I hope that Andy Weir continues writing; he did a hell of a job on his first book.