Friday, April 11, 2014

Pandora's Clock by John J Nance

Pandora's Clock by John J Nance
Thriller

A man gets on a flight bound for the USA from Germany and the flight attendants realize right away that he is not feeling well. Before they can even exit European air space, the passenger collapses and a doctor is called to help. They perform CPR on him but he is just hanging on to life. Captain James Holland requests the ability to land in England to assist the passenger but is denied because the British government has learned from the Germans that there could be a Level 4 pathogen on board. This is a bug that, if brought to a city, could wipe out the entire population. Each government learns about Holland's flight and subsequently denies him entry to their airspace. The US government gets involved but they are just as concerned as the Europeans. Meanwhile, the passengers and crew are just doing what they can to survive, scared that they only have 48 hours to live.

I've read a few of Nance's books in the past and really enjoy them. They are great thrillers and a bit of a change of pace from normal thrillers because they always take place on a plane. You would think there are limited things you can do on a plane but Nance gets very creative.

This book leaves you thinking about what if. We know that in current times, viruses and bugs travel across continents due to air travel. I'm sure it's possible that someone carried aboard a deadly virus that could spread easily. What would governments do? Would they go as far to shoot the plane down? Very interesting questions were asked from this book.

First Line: "Professor Earnest Helms had returned to the starting point of the snowy forest trail just in time."

Rating:
(4/5)

Friday, April 04, 2014

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Science Fiction

Ender Wiggin is a young boy who is considered to be Earth's hope at defeating the buggers who, years before, had almost destroyed Earth. Children are now to be trained at a young age to determine if they have what it takes to fight the buggers so that once they return to Earth, defeat is guaranteed. The kids are placed in very stressful situations and due to Ender's promise, the teachers alienate him so that he knows he can't depend on friends or teachers to help him out.

I had read this book as a teenager in high school and remember really enjoying it. I vaguely remembered what had happened so the ending wasn't too much of a surprise for me but getting there was still really enjoyable. I sailed through this book because I was so engaged in what Ender was going through.

I don't think it matters too much if you're not a fan of science fiction, I believe you can still enjoy this book. There are science fiction elements but they aren't the primary focus of the story and they don't overshadow the character development.

I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series.

First Line: "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke
Thriller

Christmas morning, Holly Judge wakes up with a single thought: Something has followed them home from Russia. Holly checks in on her adopted daughter from Russia, Tatiana, but everything looks ok and she goes back to sleep. Her husband wakes up a few hours later in a panic that no one has woken up yet and he needs to pick his parents up from the airport. He rushes out in to a snow storm to get them, leaving Holly and Tatty alone. Tatty is acting odd, even for a teenager, and Holly starts to get calls that her guests aren't coming over because the weather is getting so bad. Holly remembers the time she and her husband spent in Russia before bringing Tatty home, as Tatty acts more and more bizarre as the day progresses.

This whole story takes place in less than a day and starts with the repeated phrase of how something followed them home from Russia. This phrase was repeated to the point where I was actually getting annoyed with the author. After the 4th or 5th time I wanted to say I get it! Something followed them home from Russia! I seemed to maintain this level of annoyance with the book throughout the whole thing. In addition to the upfront repetition, I think the additional annoyance was because I'm not a patient reader and you definitely need to be one for this book. Pages were dedicated to discussions and thoughts that could have happened in a paragraph. Should Holly answer the phone when the number shows up as Unavailable? It takes multiple pages to decide.

Despite the underlying annoyance I felt with this book, I couldn't put it down. Rarely does a book annoy me but capture my attention in such a way at the same time. I wanted to know what was going on because everything about this book felt off and you knew that the explanation was waiting at the end. While I had some idea of what the ending was going to be like, there were still surprises that left me feeling satisfied.

Really, the only other item that had me scratching my head a bit was the character Holly. She very quickly descends in to madness and I was left wondering what her real personality was. It's hard to gauge how much someone is losing it without knowing what their base line is.

Despite the few items that I've pointed out, I would still recommend this book to thriller fans. I would only advise to try and be more patient with the book than I was and you'll probably enjoy it more!

Thanks to TLC Book Tour for letting me be a part of this tour!

First Line: "She woke up late that morning, and knew: Something had followed them home from Russia."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Friday, March 28, 2014

S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

S. by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst
Fiction/Literature

VM Straka is an enigma. Not many know about who the author really is but they enjoy his books. This includes ex-scholar Eric who was kicked out of the university while studying Straka in his post-graduate. Jen, an undergrad student, finds Eric's Straka book 'Ship of Theseus', and starts jotting down notes in the margins. So starts a conversation between Jen and Eric who only meet in the pages of the book. In a truly unique book, not only do you get the story from 'Ship of Theseus' but the conversation between Eric and Jen as they try to figure out who Straka is.

The first challenge of this book is trying to figure out how to read it. Eric and Jen take 4 turns through the book using different colours each time. There are also inserts for the book, with newspaper clippings, postcards, etc. The book itself is quite beautifully crafted. This may be a bit odd but it also smelled exactly like an old book that had been kept in great condition. I decided to read the story and the first pass for Eric and Jen and then go back to read their second pass, followed by the third and then the forth. It seemed to work well and for the most part everything was in chronological order for reading.

The story of 'Ship of Theseus' is interesting but the real draw of the book comes from Eric and Jen. At first there are way too many characters and people to remember. I didn't feel like I had a good grasp on who was who until my second pass through the book. I really enjoyed the additional element that the notes in the margins added. It really made this book fun to read.

Don't pick this book up if you are a lazy reader. You need to continue reading the book after it's done by researching it online. Not all the clues are solved and not all answers are given (typical J.J. Abrams) but there are some sites out there that do a good job of filling in the blanks.

Rating:
(4/5)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Suspects by William J. Caunitz

Suspects by William J. Caunitz
Mystery

Lt. Tony Scanlon gets the call that a Sergent and business owner have been shot and killed in a robbery. After interviewing the witnesses, Scanlon learns that the shooter yelled 'hey you' before killing the two. Was it really a robbery or was one of them the intended target? Scanlon works with his troupe of disgraced cops, he himself having lost his leg, to solve the case when the son of the business owner is killed. What connects them all together?

I'm not usually a big fan of mysteries where a cop is the victim. I find that the motives are usually similar and books begin to feel the same because the same questions are being asked. However, you could tell the Caunitz had experience on the force which brought a bit of a different element to the book. I don't think I had read a book where the cop's locker gets cleaned out as a first step to an investigation, which was kind of interesting.

The mystery of this book was rather weak, but the characters were what kept me reading. Scanlon and his band of misfits were an interesting crew. I enjoyed Scanlon's personal and professional life, it's just a shame that the mystery didn't match.

First Line: "The old man walked unnoticed into the park."

Rating:
(3/5)

Friday, March 07, 2014

How To Deliver A TED Talk: Secrets Of The World's Most Inspiring Presentations by Jeremy Donovan

How To Deliver A TED Talk: Secrets Of The World's Most Inspiring Presentations by Jeremy Donovan
Business

I picked this up not because I have any interest in giving a TED talk, but because I give a few presentations a week and wanted to see if I could pick up some tips on how to present better. There are many tips given in this book, most of which are common sense or known best practices for public speaking. There wasn't much that was specific to TED talks, although Donovan did break down some speeches that were very popular in terms of timing, laughs, pauses, etc. However this doesn't really help you craft your speech. I can't write to say "you" 4 times every 60 seconds, I would imagine it's difficult to precisely measure that out. There are some great reminders in here though. Such as don't be afraid of silence, it doesn't need to be filled with "ums" and "uhs". It's always great to have this reminder as I start consciously thinking about it and find myself saying it less often when I do think about it.

I ended up listening to this on audio, which I don't think is the best way to read this book. The lists became long, tedious, and meaningless. Plus I feel that this would be better as a written book that you could reference when you have a speech or presentation coming up soon.

Rating:
(3/5)

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin
Mystery

Jack leaves his home town and is making him way to the big city to find his fortune. The city he comes across is Toy City, where toys are alive and nursery rhyme characters are the upper class. What Jack doesn't realize is that Toy City's first serial killer is on the loose, killing nursery rhyme characters, starting with Humpty Dumpty. Jack is befriended by Eddie, a teddy bear detective, and the two set off to find out who the killer is.

I've read others compare Rankin to Terry Pratchett but he reminds me more of Christopher Moore or Jasper Fforde. The play on words and the jokes about the nursery rhymes are well thought out and quite funny. I really enjoyed the characters and the filler story. What I thought was a bit weaker was the mystery itself. When clues of the killer were being given I actually felt rather let down.

First Line: "'Once upon a time,' said the big fat farmer, 'it was all fields around here.'"

Rating:
(3/5)