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Book Review – The Short Drop (Gibson Vaughn Series) by Matthew FitzSimmons (@MatthewFitz_1)

June 24, 2016 Leave a comment

The Short Drop (The Gibson Vaughn Series) by Matthew FitzSimmons

Book Description:

An Amazon Best Book of December 2015

The bestseller with over half a million readers that People magazine called a “live-wire debut.”

A decade ago, fourteen-year-old Suzanne Lombard, the daughter of Benjamin Lombard—then a senator, now a powerful vice president running for the presidency—disappeared in the most sensational missing-person case in the nation’s history. Still unsolved, the mystery remains a national obsession.

For legendary hacker and marine Gibson Vaughn, the case is personal—Suzanne Lombard had been like a sister to him. On the tenth anniversary of her disappearance, the former head of Benjamin Lombard’s security asks for Gibson’s help in a covert investigation of the case, with new evidence in hand.

Haunted by tragic memories, he jumps at the chance to uncover what happened all those years ago. Using his military and technical prowess, he soon discovers multiple conspiracies surrounding the Lombard family—and he encounters powerful, ruthless political players who will do anything to silence him and his team. With new information surfacing that could threaten Lombard’s bid for the presidency, Gibson must stay one step ahead as he navigates a dangerous web to get to the truth.

*

I’d been in a reading funk lately, starting and then abandoning one book after another. Got very frustrated, but happily, this is one novel that I finished (and in record time too!) The Short Drop was an audible deal offer on Amazon, and I was very curious when I read the book description (A cold case involving the future president’s missing daughter suddenly has new evidence turn up 10 years later). Very intriguing! And I was not disappointed, at all. And I’ve been recommending this thriller to everyone I know since!

This book really lived up to its “live-wire debut” description – it’s a cliché to say this, but I found it to be a literal page turner, with so many unexpected twists and turns, and I never got bored or even felt like putting the book down (what a struggle to find the extra time to sleep/eat/work!). The author managed to keep me guessing, and although I did figure out the ‘big secret’ in the girl’s disappearance before it was revealed, I was surprised when someone I thought was a friend turned out to be not so friendly.

It also helped that I really liked the main character Gibson Vaughn – he’s this (disgraced but still legendary) hacker and ex-marine, who has never gotten over the disappearance of Suzanne Lombard (his childhood friend who was practically his baby sister). From his recollections of the girl, I found myself deeply caring about what happened to her also. And even as the other characters cautioned Gibson about ‘false hope’ – the girl had been gone for 10 years! – I found myself right beside Gibson – hoping against hope that there was a happy ending somehow.

I also want to mention how easy it was to read this book – the writing flow was so good, and I was really immersed in the story. It’s a bit hard to explain (like that so-called x-factor in Hollywood stars), but this author has that special quality that makes me go – this is a good writer, I want to read more of his stuff!

RATING: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

The Short Drop (The Gibson Vaughn Series) by Matthew FitzSimmons (Thomas & Mercer) is available on Amazon and other bookstores (B&N Nookbook, Kobo books, iBooks, Book Depository)

Book Review – The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (@RickYancey)

January 2, 2015 Leave a comment

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Book Description:

An Amazon Best Teen Book of the Month, May 2013 Spotlight Pick
The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

*

Rick Yancey is the author of the excellent Monstrumologist series which I love, but I staved off reading this new series, mostly due to my ‘post-apocalyptic / dystopian books’ fatigue. But the sequel has been released (The Infinite Sea: The Second Book of the 5th Wave), so it was time for me to dive in!

The 5th Wave is about a hostile alien invasion of earth, and it starts out really creepy, with a ‘being’ visiting a sleeping pregnant woman and ‘inserting’ an alien consciousness within the fetus. Then, the countdown begins. (cue the music).

The book starts up again after the so-called ‘4th wave’ of the invasion, and is told mostly from the point of view of shell-shocked teenager Cassie (who fears she is the last person on earth). To my surprise, I found that I liked Cassie (I usually don’t like the YA heroines I’ve read so far). She had all the irritating teenage girl qualities (especially her tendency to moon over good-looking boys), but I don’t know – Rick Yancey managed to wrap her up in teflon or something – I was really rooting for her. I liked her sarcasm, guts and never-say-die attitude. I suspect though that part of why she didn’t wear out her welcome was that Rick Yancey, (wisely) chose not to tell the entire story from her POV.

The 5th Wave is also told from the POV of a teenage boy nicknamed Zombie, who has been conscripted into a ‘child army’ – whipped into fighting shape ostensibly to defeat the elements of the ‘4th wave’ – the ‘alien-infested’ humans who are busily wiping out what’s left of humanity after the previous ‘waves’.  Zombie is the leader of a rag-tag squadron, whose littlest member is (coincidentally) Sammy – Cassie’s little brother.

And more coincidence (!), Zombie happens to be Ben Parish – Cassie’s unrequited crush back in her previous life. But the requisite teen romance (because there has to be one – it’s like written in law or something) in The 5th Wave isn’t between Cassie and Zombie. Mysterious good (or bad?) guy Evan rescues a wounded Cassie, and they quickly fall in love while Cassie is recuperating under Evan’s care. Personally, I found Evan to be stalker-ish (even Cassie commented on this), but apparently, all that laser-beam intensity is an irresistible quality in a man. (Example – My girl friends who have read the book are in love with Evan – insert eye-roll here).

The 5th Wave ends strong with good action sequences AND on emotional cliff-hangers (the fate of one main character up in the air, other characters may be mortally wounded), so I’m darn glad that I already own book two!

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Putnam Juvenile/Penguin Group) is available on Amazon and other bookstores.

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Book Review – Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes (@Elizjhaynes)

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

Book Description:

New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Haynes returns with a disturbing and powerful tale that preys on our darkest fears.

Police analyst Annabel wouldn’t describe herself as lonely. Her work and the needs of her aging mother keep her busy. But Annabel is shocked when she discovers her neighbor’s decomposing body in the house next door, and she is appalled to think that no one, including herself, noticed the woman’s absence. Annabel sets out to investigate, despite her colleagues’ lack of interest, and discovers that such cases are frighteningly common in her hometown.

A chilling thriller and a hymn to all the lonely people whose individual voices haunt its pages, Human Remains shows how vulnerable we are when we live alone, and how easily ordinary lives can fall apart when no one is watching.

*

Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes was featured as a Kindle Daily Deal, and after reading the book description (see above), I had to read it.  I read about cases like these occasionally (about bodies being found after weeks/months of no one missing them) and I’ve always thought about how sad that was. That someone could be so cut off from everybody around them that they die alone and no one notices.

In this crime thriller, analyst Annabel makes the disturbing discovery that in her hometown, the number of such cases are off the roof. Surely, that isn’t natural, is this a sign of something wrong with her town in general or is someone responsible? Ms Haynes chooses not to keep her readers in the dark, and in alternating chapters, she gives voice to the man responsible (Colin – a sick man with an obsession for death) and his ‘victims’.

For a ‘thriller’, Human Remains is a slow read though; nothing really exciting happens until near the end (and that’s only because Colin decides to deviate from his MO and does a really stupid thing). Annabel is also a tricky kind of character; she’s so mousy and depressed and had such a victim-complex that I got really frustrated with her character. She was the perfect prey for Colin, though, so I get that was why the author wrote her that way.

Human Remains tells a really compelling story though – it’s disturbing (Warning: there’s explicit description on decomposition that might gross out some readers) and grim and I did like the psychological aspects of it, and what the author was trying to say about alienation and depression in modern society. I mean, it’s definitely different from the usual crime thriller books I’ve read.

I have no plans for re-reading this one though (it’s just not that kind of book). So, if I were you, I’d suggest you borrow this if possible.

 

Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes (Myriad Editions) is available on Amazon, B&N, Apple iBooks, Kobo books

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Book Review – Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Loureiro

May 12, 2014 1 comment

Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Loureiro

Book Description:

The dead rise…

A mysterious incident in Russia, a blip buried in the news—it’s the only warning humanity receives that civilization will soon be destroyed by a single, voracious virus that creates monsters of men.

Humanity falls…

A lawyer, still grieving over the death of his young wife, begins to write as a form of therapy. Bur he never expected that his anonymous blog would ultimately record humanity’s last days.

The end of the world has begun…

Governments scramble to stop the zombie virus, people panic, so-called “Safe Havens” are established, the world erupts into chaos; soon it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves. Armed only with makeshift weapons and the will to live, a lone survivor will give mankind one last chance against…

Apocalypse Z

*

I was in the mood for another take on the Zombie Apocalypse, so I picked up Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Loureiro (a Spanish practicing lawyer & author based in Pontevedra, Spain). With an average of 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon (and 1,083 5 star reviews!), I figured this should be a good buy.

Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End unfortunately didn’t quite live up (to me) to the promise of its 4.2 stars, but if you like Zombie stories, it’s still an okay (if redundant) read. My main problem with the book was that it didn’t really offer anything new to the genre – the author was pretty faithful in his characterization of the zombies, and the plot is the usual survival story covered many times before (by better authors). The setting of the story at the author’s native Spain did keep it  bit more interesting for me in the beginning, same with the origin of the Zombie plague beginning somewhere in Dagestan. Book-Putin’s response was also classic – I think Putin’s government would react the same way:)

The main character in the book is a yuppie lawyer who initially starts blogging as a way of dealing with his grief after the death of his wife, and ended up chronicling his harrowing experiences in a personal journal during the Zombie apocalypse. I thought that the blogging style worked well in the beginning, when the lawyer was slowly waking up to the real threat while trying to go about his ordinary life (going to work, shopping, etc). I was still okay when it got switched to writing a journal (the internet dies during the apocalypse, y’all) – after all, the guy was stuck alone in his home surrounded by zombies. Plenty of time to write one’s thoughts down on paper.

But I did have to suspend disbelief that the lawyer supposedly continued writing in the journal so faithfully (reporting EVERYTHING that happened to him almost daily), even after he went on the run (and spoiler alert! got captured). I mean, it’s kind of hard to think of myself taking a break every now and then from the Zombie mayhem to write down all my previous 24-hour experiences. It really got silly around the last third of the book for me – oh, hey, a horde of zombies have killed a bunch of us! I might die next! but hey, I’ll write down first about what happened in detail starting from this morning…

Personally, if the author was really dead set on the journal aspect, I thought the character should’ve just remained stuck in his home, while he fought going cabin-fever crazy while trying to figure out a way to survive the Zombies. Less travelling / adventuring / gathering companions (including a possible love-interest character whose age – 16/17? – gave me the creeps), and more going into the psychology of survival of a lone wolf-type character maybe.

Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Loureiro, translated by Pamela Carmell (AmazonCrossing) is available on Amazon.

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Book Review – The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson @BrandSanderson

February 14, 2014 Leave a comment

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

Book Description:

WINNER, 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella 
Nominee, 2013 World Fantasy Award for Novella 

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, The Emperor’s Soul showcases a fascinating magic system as the clock ticks down for a condemned criminal.

When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos.

Shai is given an impossible task: to create–to Forge–a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai’s only possible ally is the emperor’s most loyal counselor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent.

Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape…

*

Well, no wonder Brandon Sanderson’s novella The Emperor’s Soul earned a Hugo – it’s a really good book, and I loved the creativity of the magical system it explored. It sure left me wanting more long after I’d finished it. I even checked Brandon Sanderson’s catalog to see if he might have written a sequel in the interim (from it’s release in November, 2012).

It amazes me, really, the creativity of fantasy/sci fi authors like Mr Sanderson. He explained in his afterword that he got the idea after visiting a museum in Taiwan and seeing the red signature seals you see in Chinese artwork. He went from that to – What if the stamp wasn’t just the signature of the artwork’s creator? What if stamping a work allowed someone to change the entire history of an object (for example, an empty wall becomes an exquisite wall painting once you add the history that a master artist once spent weeks convalescing in the room)? And a step further – is it possible for a master of the craft to do the same for a brain-damaged person, rebuild the person’s entire history and personality from scratch? Just blew my mind.

If you’re after an afternoon or two of “blowing your mind”  too – keep this book in mind. Maybe, if there are enough people wishing for more Shae, Gaotona and Emperor Ashravan – a follow-up might just materialize!

The Emperor’s Soul) by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment) is available on Amazon, B&N, Apple iBooks, Kobo books

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“UK to provide Philippines with £5m in aid”

November 10, 2013 Leave a comment

What my dad said: “(Given the Napoles-Philippine Lawmakers scandal), hopefully, all £5m will reach those who were devastated by the super typhoon, and it won’t end up lining the pockets of corrupt officials!”

I concur.

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Help Needed in the Philippines

November 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) is the strongest tropical cyclone worldwide this year. It’s the 25th storm to hit the country just in 2013, and this one was a category-5 super typhoon.

I heard that in just Tacloban City (Where they were hit by storm surges up to seven meters high), the death toll may go up to 500. So sad.

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