ARTEMIS

2/5 stars

  • Author: Andy Weir
  • Publication date: 11.14.2017

Apologies in advance. You’re not gonna like what I have to say.

This is not the review I was expecting to write, but this is not the book I was expecting to read.

Andy Weir has successfully taken the one element I didn’t like in THE MARTIAN and expanded on that until ARTEMIS is almost a chore to read. Major disappointment.

Remember our hero, Mark, in The Martian? His jokey, sarcastic personality started to grate on my nerves towards the end of the book. It’s like he never quit with the relentless joking. Staring death in the face? Make a joke. Starving to death? Play some funny music. Ok, we get it! Mark is all about the comic relief. Why does it have to be so overdone and heavy-handed? I still enjoyed the book for all the old-school science fiction fun.

HOWEVER, after cutting Weir some slack for his forced characterizations in The Martian, I am not so ready to do the same with Artemis.

Guess what? Jazz, our female protagonist in Artemis, has almost the exact same personality as Mark from The Martian. Ugggggghhhhh. And that goofy, insulting character is even more annoying in a grown woman. Is that sexist? I hope not. I don’t mean it to be.

Oh, and by the way, Jazz is the town tramp (with a heart of gold) because of her reputation for sleeping with so many guys. Hysterical.

The book starts out very fun to read. I really enjoyed reading how the city of Artemis came to be established on the moon. I loved reading about the actualities of lunar living with 1/6 of the gravity. I liked learning about the moon’s surface, dust and atmosphere. There just wasn’t enough of the moon facts for me.

Also, I’m beginning to question Andy Weir’s imagination for the future. The moon inhabitants walk around and do all their business transactions on small computers that they carry. They pay for items and surf the internet on these “gizmos” as they are called. FASCINATING STUFF right here.

What there is plenty of:
Welding. Yes, welding. More than I ever want to know about welding.
Stupid middle-school humor that the very smart adults all seem to love.
Forced, unnatural dialogue.
Convoluted, crazy plot that never really makes sense.
Integral characters that are unexplained, because of one-note superficial writing.

After the first third of the book, I had to push through to finish it. Especially the middle part with all the welding. Take my advice and skim skim skim through the welding. The very end ramps up with some excitement, but not enough to make up of for the rest. Sad.

I would have liked more moonwalking, less welding. More thinking, less insulting. More imagination, less joking. More sci-fi, less lame comedy.

Amazon link Artemis: A Novel

THE DRY (Aaron Falk #1)

5/5 Stars

  • Author: Jane Harper
  • Hardcover published by Flatiron Books, 326 pages
  • US publication date: January 10, 2017

I blame Aaron Falk. He just made me add a new shelf on Goodreads. Series. You see, I don’t like book series. With a few VERY exceptional characters preceding Aaron Falk (Harry Potter, Christian Grey, Edward Cullen, Kinsey Milhone) have I read an entire series. It’s just too much of a commitment and then I feel guilty if I miss a book in the series. I will not be missing any book that Aaron Falk is in. Ever. No way, no worries, mate.

I am so late to THE DRY party that I almost didn’t read it. Finally, feeling caught up and proud of myself for all my ARC reading, I picked up one of the few hardbacks I have actually bought and opened up.

“It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blowflies didn’t discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.”
–Jane Harper, The Dry

What a terrific first sentence! Jane Harper, you hooked me at page 1, sentence one.

As a reader, I am immediately FEELING this dusty, angry, Australian farm town as it reels from one of the worst droughts in history. I could hear the flies buzzing, see the rabbits eating the last bits of vegetation and smell the despair of the townspeople as they try to hang on to their livelihoods without any rain. I have not experienced this type of magical transportation in a long time. It is perfectly intoxicating.

Stay with me, because that is just the setting of the book. Now, add a hardworking federal cop, Aaron Falk, who has relunctantly come back to his hometown for the funeral of his best friend. Aaron Falk is not a perfect hero, he has issues and secrets, but he tries to do right by his friends and he knows something is wrong here. Aaron’s childhood friend, Luke, has been accused of murdering his own family before turning the gun on himself. Aaron and Luke shared a secret many years ago which we learn of during the investigation of the family murder. Does this old secret have anything to do with Luke killing his family?

Aaron Falk is a tough nut to crack. The author shares just enough about him to make you want more. He is interesting, smart. A loner, a good guy, but what makes him tick? Oh, I’m a devoted fan. I will follow Aaron Falk through every one of his next books, even if there are fifty more to come.

Is this a character or plot driven mystery? BOTH! Plus, that Aussie setting! It is so real, you better keep your chapstick handy for the parched lips you develop while reading.

Sidenote: As I was reading THE DRY, Oregon’s beloved Columbia Gorge was on fire for weeks (still is). Portland was enveloped in smoke, ash and heat! So hard to breathe! My own atmospheric reality definitely contributed to the transforming ability the book had on me- haha. Not to diminish this captivating story in any way. It stands on it’s own, even if you read it at the North Pole!

AMAZON The Dry: A Novel

Author Amanda Robson talks OBSESSION with Jewels

Jewels:  Congratulations on your fabulous book dealing with disturbed, impetuous characters! It is my favorite read of the summer!

Amanda Robson:  Thank you for your very kind words. I was thrilled to read your review.

J:  OBSESSION goes deep into marital relationships as well as mental illnesses. How long did you research the various issues before starting to write? 

AR:  I have been listening to friend’s problems over the years and empathising. Also, a very close friend of mine has just retired as a Relate counsellor, so all in all it has been a long term observational interest rather than anything I had to research specifically.

J:    How long did it take to write the book?

AR:  I had been writing a piece of historical fiction for many years which took a lot of research and re- drafting. I just missed getting it published and was so disappointed. The idea of Obsession suddenly popped into my head and so I decided to go for it and change genre. Writing a psychological thriller came to me much more naturally than historical fiction.  Obsession only took me six months.

J:   I find it fascinating that you previously co-authored a medical book on cyanide poisoning. When did you realize you wanted to write fiction?

AR:   I wanted to write fiction from being a teenager. I always loved writing poetry too. But because of my early scientific career and bringing up my children, writing a novel never got a look in. A few pieces of poetry for private consumption was the best I could do. It wasn’t until my children were late teenagers that I really felt I had the time. When I saw their lives moving forwards and mine stagnating, I realized this was the time to take control and do what I had always wanted to do.  

J:  I read that you wanted to be an actress in another life. Who would you like to see act in the role of Carly if OBSESSION was made into a movie (fingers crossed!)?

AR:  I would love Scarlett Johansson to play Carly, as she is so interesting and versatile. Scarlett Johanssan has a very expressive face, which is exactly how I imagine Carly.  

J:   Yes! I 100% agree! Scarlett Johansson would be absolutely perfect as the gorgeous, blonde, funny and intense Carly!

J:  I saw that one of your favorite contemporary authors is Chimamanda Ngozi. I loved AMERICANAH! Which of her books is your favorite and why?

AR:  Americanah is my favourite too.  It is so sharply and evocatively written, and the main character is so well drawn. I think it is a book of importance, challenging the West’s attitudes to race in a very haunting way.  The way Ngozi describes in detail the thoughts and feelings of a few characters, so that I can imagine their situation, rather than being bulldozed by statistics, works for me in a very powerful way.   

J:  Were you influenced by any other current authors in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre?

AR:  Definitely. I loved Gone Girl and Girl on a Train. Didn’t everybody?

J:  Yes, I certainly did! Both books are in my TWISTER HALL OF FAME!

J:   Without spoiling the ending for readers, OBSESSION does have a quite shocking one. How many various endings did you imagine for the book? Or was it always going to be the final product?

AR:  I did have another ending. But I changed it so that the reader could have more empathy with one of the characters. Guess which one?

J:   Hahaha! Yes I think I know which character you mean. And the ending definitely works! It is realistic, plausible and shocking. The best kind of plot twist.

J:  Please tell me you are working on a new book! If so, can you say anything about it yet?

AR:  I have just finished the second edit of my next book Guilt. It is another domestic thriller, in which two sisters get into a bad situation with the same man.

J:  I can’t wait to read GUILT, Amanda! Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to visit with me. Congratulations on OBSESSION!

Available on Amazon Now! Obsession: The bestselling psychological thriller perfect for summer reading

amanda-robson-profile

Amanda Robson, author of OBSESSION. See my review of OBSESSION here.

FINAL GIRLS

5/5 stars

  • Author: Riley Sager
  • Publication date 7.11.2017
  • Penguin Group Dutton

Go with me for a second. Are you under the impression that FINAL GIRLS is about a horror movie?  Please tell me I’m not the only one that thought that!

That’s a huge misconception….The blurb says something about a “horror-movie scale massacre” and that’s all I remembered reading before thinking, “SKIP”. Not interested in  a horror movie re-make.

Well, I’m proud to announce that FINAL GIRLS is not about a movie. And double proud to announce it is a fun, scary and highly entertaining book!

There has been so much hype surrounding this current book of the month club that I was standoff-ish about rushing to it. I’m weird like that. Plus, like I said, I’m not much of a horror-movie-slasher fan. But then, Penguin Group Dutton publishers sent me an ARC and how could I not read it? I am so happy they did!

Do you know what a Final Girl is? A final girl is the sole survivor of a horrific murder scene. Movies like Halloween and Scream inevitably end with a final girl left standing.  Yet, another movie reference, sorry. Author Riley Sager has written a startling story about three final girls (all survivors of different gruesome scenes) who eventually have their separate lives intersect under troublesome circumstances.

Quincy Carpenter, aside from having a cute name, is a final girl. She lived through a mass murder scene ten years before and has tried her best to get on with a semi-normal life. A tad dependent on Xanax and dealing with a mild kleptomania problem, she has steadfastly stuck to her story that she didn’t remember anything about the night of the killings. She has dealt with her survivor guilt by becoming a successful baking blogger and by refusing to talk about that grisly night.

That’s really all you need to know about the set up of this addictive story. I was hesitant about the degree of slashi-ness, but it’s actually not that bad (nowhere near a Patricia Cornwell book!) and the narrative switches just fast enough between the murders 10 years ago and the new mystery Quincy is currently caught up in. So you never really have time to get tired of the bloody stuff!

Despite the subject matter, I wouldn’t call FINAL GIRLS a dark or disturbing horror novel. Big surprise to me! For one thing, author Riley Sager, is no Gillian Flynn. Sager’s writing is lighter, an almost superficial style, never diving below the surface of words. No need to read between the lines, just read.

There are a couple of plot twists, the pages turn fast, it is a very quick, compelling mystery. I love the character of Quincy. She is an imperfect, somewhat unreliable narrator and an interesting protagonist.

I have no doubt, FINAL GIRLS, has all the elements in place to be THE beach read book of 2017. And deservedly so.

THANK you to Penguin Group Dutton for the ARC. I appreciate the opportunity to give my honest opinion.
Final Girls: A Novel  Amazon

HIDE AND SEEK

3/5 stars

  • Author: Richard Parker
  • Kindle Edition, 393 pages
  • Expected publication: August 31st 2017 by Bookouture

I love the way this book starts! Page one and BOOM! You are right in the middle of a mom fighting a backyard intruder who has scooped up her 4-year old son and is making his way over the fence and….I don’t want to give anymore away, but it’s a race until the end of the book. AND this is one tough mama bear.

Richard Parker is the solid writer of this thriller (and my favorite tiger name from LIFE OF PI). He knows how to keep up the suspense and the pages turning fast. The bulk of the plot takes place in the span of two days as Lana and Todd fight to get their son back.

The two parents have different ideas about who took their son and why. This is where the story divides up and they each go their own way to rescue the kid.

Lana is into a website/app called “Right Where You’re Standing” a type of Murder Wikipedia of kill-sites.  Is there an app like this?  I’m asking for a friend. 

She is convinced the app has something to do with her son’s abduction and a notorious serial child rapist, dubbed Mr. Whisper, is her main suspect.  Todd, her husband, thinks his wife is wrong. Todd has a secret and he believes this secret is the reason for the kidnapping.

For me, the plot would work better without the secondary story of Todd and his secret. I would have enjoyed a more in-depth character analyses of Todd and Lana. But, that’s just me. The story is really an active, plot driven novel. I feel the ending is too much, too implausible and over the top.

There are some really cool settings: a psychiatric prison hospital, an abandoned water park, an old school. The images are memorable and creepy. HIDE AND SEEK is a quick read and a perfect light mystery for a poolside read.

Author: Richard Parker
Kindle Edition, 393 pages
Expected publication: August 31st 2017 by Bookouture
AMAZON KINDLE DEAL click below!

Hide and Seek: An absolutely gripping thriller with heart-pounding suspense

10 INVIGORATING Bookclub Selections

What kinds of books do you like to read and discuss with a group of friends?  Does your bookclub go for the controversial themes or the safe ones, so that no one member feels offended? Nothing wrong with that. Some bookclubs are polite like that.

My bookclub “babes” tend to go….all over the place! We go through the historical fiction period for a few months until we get tired of that and switch it up with something hot and current. We always have more lively discussions with the “controversial” books. One book that was definitely a love it or hate it topic for us was ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS by Bryn Greenwood.

“I was lying on the tracks under a train I was in love with.”
― Bryn Greenwood, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Personally, I find this book absolutely heartbreaking and brilliant. The subject matter is tough and heavy, but honest. And definitely provocative. Talk about a conversation starter!

HILLBILLY ELEGY: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, is a fascinating book, more about the state of our nation than a memoir. I highly recommend it for a book club, so many topics ranging from Appalachian poverty to the Rust Belt and the coal and steel industry, and though the author does not even mention the word TRUMP, there is a widespread belief that this book, at least partially, explains Trump’s win over Clinton. He writes knowledgeably about education, unemployment and the general “angriness” of the white poor man in the United States.

“We don’t study as children, and we don’t make our kids study when we’re parents. Our kids perform poorly in school. We might get angry with them, but we never give them the tools—like peace and quiet at home—to succeed.”
― J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

No matter how you feel about the state of our country right now,  your bookclub may want to consciously choose books of importance, diversity, and relevance this year. In the last few months we have read HOMEGOING, AMERICANAH, THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. We have also enjoyed discussing EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, THE TORTILLA CURTAIN, THE ROUND HOUSE and THE INVENTION OF WINGS.  I can confidently say that any of these “NEW” classics are perfect for your discussions and observations. They are all immediate classics to add to your bookclub TBR.

Click on any of the images below to get your copy and start reading today!

DARK MATTER

5/5 stars

  • Author: Blake Crouch
  • Crown Publishers
  • Published 7.26.2016

“We’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.”
― Blake Crouch, Dark Matter 

Sometimes the perfect book comes into your life at the perfect time. Dark Matter kept catching my eye in the year that it has been published. But, ya know, sometimes I like sci-fi and sometimes I don’t. I happened to hear Anne Bogel on her podcast “What Should I Read Next” recommend this book to a reader. She said it’s not too science-y. She’s right. I would describe Dark Matter as a suspenseful love story with a lot of cool sci-fi elements thrown in.

Jason, our main character, goes out to buy ice cream one evening and is abducted at gunpoint, drugged, and wakes up in a Chicago that is not his own. His wife and child are not his wife and child anymore and he is a prize-winning physicist in this new world who has invented a way to travel to an infinite number of universes (the multiverse).  He is on a mission to get back to his universe with his wife and child in his own life. The story that follows is one of lost opportunities, what ifs, and how the smallest decisions affect our life. It’s kind of a “Sliding Doors” premise with a sci-fi twist.

Blake Crouch writes in an exciting fast manner, you can read this book in a matter of hours (and you will want to!). I heard he’s writing the screenplay for the movie and I have no doubt it will be amazing. His writing is well suited to a screenplay. Short and to the point on descriptions, dialogues, relationships.

The book is suspenseful because he is on the run and desperate to find who has taken his place in his original universe with the love of his life, Daniela.

He’s not time traveling, he is jumping between different universes at one point in time. Sometimes he encounters a horrifyingly post-apocalyptic Chicago and another time he finds an angelic, seemingly futuristic Chicago. But all of these worlds are existing now because of choices we made as the human race in that world.  AAHHHH, I can’t even explain it, but it works!

After a summer filled with reading the same-old-domestic-suspense stories, Dark Matter was a breath of fresh air.  I absolutely loved it. You don’t need to understand quantum physics to understand this book. Suspend all disbelief, buckle your seatbelt and let Blake Crouch do the driving.

Dark Matter: A Novel AMAZON link