“Force of Nature” by Jane Harper

ForceNature

asteriaiconThis was yet another book I had read about online as a highly anticipated book for the year. The story is set in Australia, where a large company, BaileyTennant, has sent 10 staff members on a team building retreat along the Giralang Ranges in the woods. The employees are divided into 2 teams, 5 men and 5 women, with the objective to work together to capture some flags and complete the trail in the three day time span. The men come out ahead of schedule. The women, however, come out 6 hours late, and 1 woman short. Alice apparently has gone missing. Did she take off on her own, or was foul play afoot?

The story plays out in 2 perspectives. One is an account of what really transpired during those three days in the woods.  The other is that of Federal Agent Aaron Falk, a Melbourne Financial Investigator. Alice was going to be a whistle-blower against BaileyTennant. Did someone find out she was going to talk? Were the agents responsible for her untimely disappearance?

The women’s story is clear and scary. They went into the woods and accidentally got lost after following a kangaroo trail far into the woods. It was cold and rainy, and no one could agree on what to do to get back on the trail. All they knew was that Alice wasn’t there when they woke up one morning, but she had been threatening to take off, and the women had no choice but give up looking for her and try to find help, so they stumbled their way through the bush until they made it back to the meeting point.

I found it funny that the plot is around 5 miserable women in the woods …what could possibly go wrong? I work in an office of 20 or so women and it is very clear that this would be all bad! None of us would survive! I did not know this was a sequel, but it was easy to read as a stand-alone. I liked that the ending wasn’t something easily guessed, by me anyway, and it was suspenseful without being gory. It was just a nice simple straight up mystery, and exactly what I wanted!

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“Autumn Bones” by Jacqueline Carey

artemisicon(I will add a picture once I can get to the table. It’s currently covered in plants and kids crafts.)

This is the second book in the Agents of Hel series, and usually I try not to do multiple books in a series, but there were some things about this book I wanted to comment on.

Like the last book, it follows the main character Daisy, the hell-spawn, who day-times as a file clerk with the local PD, and the rest of the time she’s the Goddess Hel’s Liaison. If you’ve seen Thor: Ragnarok, “Hela” is loosely based on that Goddess (and I mean LOOSELY).

It’s not the greatest book, there are a lot of things that make me twitch, but looking past the annoying writing, there are a lot of things Carey needs credit for. So many books follow the same path, YA and Adult alike, the path of Girl-hate, slut-shaming, and puppy-dog crushes. I was expecting all of that with this book, but was actually very surprised.

The issues Daisy had with her best friend in the first book are resolved and everything is back to normal. There is some girl-hate, but it’s more “they bullied me in high school and haven’t grown up yet” kind of hate. Even though Daisy has a crush on her sometimes-partner Cody, and the local “Outcast” leader Stefan, she isn’t chasing after either of them like a love-sick puppy. There are still some tropy parts when it comes to their relationship, but I can handle the minor stuff. She even starts dating a character from the last book that is neither of her “crushes”. She ends the relationship when she realizes she went into it with the wrong feelings (wants teenager “hand-in-back-pockets” cool person relationship) and broke it off so she didn’t hurt her partner. Once again, also very mature, and not stringing him along until one of the other guys steps up. A trope I don’t mind skipping.

Not saying all her writing choices are perfect, there are a few lines that actually made me pause and think “isn’t this offensive?” but I don’t know if that’s just me being sensitive. It’s nothing derailing, but a little pause for thought.

This book doesn’t have a straight forward plot like the first, but more little plots that all kind of tie in together. A satyr in rut, Daisy compiling an Eldritch database, a missing girl, a Hell-spawn lawyer buying up land, and her boyfriends secret and estranged sister waging war against Daisy and anyone that gets in her way. Like I said, lots of little plots. It is all very interesting, but I had this feeling in the back of my head like I was waiting for the real plot to start.

Carey is constantly impressing me with her take on such common topics, and the logic behind how the magic is possible, and why a Norse Goddess is in Pemkowet USA. Sometimes when people try to write magic and mythology in modern times, they either skip over the ‘how’ of it, or their reason is so far fetched it doesn’t make sense. Carey’s does. And the more I go through the series, the more she reveals about Hel and Little Niflheim.

I may not review the rest of the series, but I do recommend it if you’re looking for a quick and fun read.

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“Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other, and the World” by Claire Fontaine, Mia Fontaine

havemother

asteriaiconI heard of this book probably in a magazine or online article, and the title just stuck in my head. When I saw that it was available as an audiobook through the library, I pounced on it. After a recent trip to Rome with my mom, I am itching for more travel with her, and the subtitle of this book just spoke to me.

The audiobook is read by the authors themselves, which I found lovely, and it was easy to tell who was who, making it a seamless transition throughout the story. The book opens with Claire (the mother) reading off her packing list for a trip, which is extensive and well thought out, and then Mia (the daughter) reads hers which is exactly 3 things, 1 being her mother. The women are on a trip that I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to go on…just not WHERE they went. It was a scavenger hunt type trip, visiting 12 countries and 20 cities, where groups of 2 would head out with a list of tasks, each with a point value, and whoever had the most at the end of the trip wins…something. The tasks are sometimes quick and easy, and sometimes very challenging, and the points are allotted accordingly, but all encourage the travelers to fully experience the culture around them within each country that they visit. It sounds like so much fun to me! The countries they visited though were more Indonesian and Asian countries, which are not countries that are on my bucket list to travel to. If I can find a trip like this through Western Europe and Britain I would be ALL OVER this!

In between the travel itself and what the mother/daughter team see and do within each country, the story is peppered with lessons each have learned about each other and themselves, and to me that was what raised this book from interesting to outstanding. The entire time I listened, I was reminded of my trip with mom, learning things about her I had never known before, and us learning how to be a mother and an adult daughter in a foreign country and not kill each other.

The story was generally light, and I found myself laughing out loud, and yet in instances where life without mom was discussed I can’t lie, I couldn’t hide back tears. It is not a reality I am even close to ready to face; my mom is my best friend, and I refuse to imagine life without her.

There just are not enough words or ways in which I can express how much I enjoyed this book and this is one I can honestly say was better hearing it than perhaps reading it, as I could hear the story through their own voices. That being said, I bought this as a paperback for my mom for her birthday, in hopes she finds it as enjoyable and as powerful as I did. I came away with a list of things I hope to learn about my mom on another trip, and hope to strengthen that bond with her just that much more.

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“Universe: Awakening” by D. Ellis Overttun

UniverseAwakening

artemisiconI took some time off to read a bunch of books I had borrowed from friends, but didn’t plan on reviewing, which is why I haven’t been posting reviews a lot lately. And last weekend I had a convention, which was why there was nothing on Thursday. I apologize, every once in a while my schedules collide!

But, I did finally finish this book. I had started it a while ago, and then the author asked me to wait on finishing the review. So as soon as I got the okay, I started reading it again.

According to Goodreads and the ending of the book, this is the first in a series. I do believe this is his first book, and like more firsts, it does need a bit of refining.

It takes place very, VERY far in the future, where humanity has evolved into two distinct species, the Celesti and the Gendu. The Gendu are much the way humanity is today, but the Celesti are an evolved form who essentially “run” the world. The thing that sets them apart the most is their life span, and how they pro-create. 10 000 years to them seems like 5 years to us. They go in and out of stasis and instead of two parents producing an offspring, two parents ascend and become two completely new people.

Because of this long life span, they can do things like send probes out into the universe and live long enough to see the results. The story starts with one such probe heading out to the edge of the Universe, but suddenly getting attacked by something unseen and unknown.

The idea behind the book is actually very interesting, and I will give the author that. There were so many aspects of his world that I wanted to know more about and see him delve more deeply into, but unfortunately he skimmed over the most (IMO) interesting parts. My issue is with his actual writing and pacing. But a lot of these come with time and lots, and lots of writing.

I found his writing very passive, and telling more than showing, so it kind of took me out of the rhythm of the story once in a while. I did find myself skimming entire pages or information that really didn’t have much to do with anything, trying to get back to the interesting story.

This also might just be me, but I felt he didn’t push the story as far as he could have. The world was incredibly far in the future yet their technology and way of life felt very our-lifetime. And he didn’t delve as far into that world as I would have liked. Being able to interface in a person’s brain (a la ‘The Cell’), Ascending, Aura’s, What do their buildings look like? How are they built? How advanced is the Gendu? How did the species separate? What about the monks? How were the Monks in the interface? Is the whole world like this or is this a city by city thing? Was there a space race kind of situation when they realized they would live long enough to  see probes that had to travel hundreds of years?

I’m trying not to sound cruel because it was a very interesting book, and I absolutely love the aspect of Aura’s. Aura’s help people identify rank and mental health, no matter how hard they try to hide it. And Aura’s can be warped and used as a tool, or can interact with tools.

I hope to see him explore more of his created world, and maybe push the line on how his world works. It truly was interesting, I was want to see MORE. Don’t toe the sci-fi line, bulldoze right on through it!

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“The Woman in the Window” by A.J. Finn

WomanintheWindow

asteriaiconThis was another book that appeared all over my Instagram, and I had read online that this was to be the best book of the year. There was a quote on the back by Stephen King, and it had a ton of 5 star reviews on Goodreads, so I signed up for it at the library to see what the fuss was about. How can you go wrong when the great King himself endorses the book!?

Anna Fox is a child psychologist, who happens to suffer from agoraphobia.  She has been an agoraphobic for about ten months due to some trauma, but tries to help others with the same affliction through online counseling. She drinks a lot of wine, takes a lot of medication, and seems rather lonely. She talks daily with her husband and daughter, who appear to be estranged, yet oddly close. In her spare time, she uses her Nikon camera to watch her neighbours comings and goings, imagining personal aspects of their lives. One day, the Russel’s move into the neighbourhood and Anna seems transfixed by them. That is, until she sees someone being murdered in their house. Anna calls the police, but no one will believe the agoraphobic alcoholic. Was it real or did she hallucinate the whole thing?

I wanted to like this book, but I was just so disappointed in it. Stephen King called it original, but I found it to be very much in the vein of Girl on the Train – not very original at all!

I enjoyed reading a story with an unreliable narrator. Anna takes anti-psychotics and anti-depressants that have side effects with alcohol, like hallucinations. But it is unfortunate to read through the eyes of a predictable unreliable character. By page 150, I had figured out why she suffered from agoraphobia, even though that was a rather big reveal later on in the book.  I had figured out about 80% of the ending halfway through the book, the 20% being unsure of whether Jane was real or not. The story was predictable and suffered from some terrible cliché’s…of course there is going to be a thunderstorm right at the big finale! I couldn’t help but roll my eyes!

The book was a very easy read. I was done all 427 pages in 5 hours…no small feat for me, but I found myself skimming a lot. Sure, it was pretty fast paced, and hard to put down, but it just didn’t live up to the expectation, and certainly to me will not be on my list of best books of the year! Based on the back cover, this is heading to the big screen, and I think I can safely say this is a movie I am going to pass on! I keep trying to read new and popular books to stay “relevant” but they all seem to be failing me.  Everyone seems to be trying to be the next Gone Girl or Girl on the Train. Where are the unique and original storylines??

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Schedule Hiccup

artemisiconSorry, my schedules have collided and I am in the middle of preparing for a Convention so the book blogs will have to wait. It’s just this weekend, but everything will be back in order next week!

Stay tuned for more reviews!

Thank you for your patience.

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“Bonfire” by Krysten Ritter

Bonfire

asteriaiconI stumbled on this book while reading an article about hot new releases just prior to Christmas, and found that it was available through our library, so I decided to give it a shot. I recognize the author from a number of hit television shows, though the role she stands out best for me is in Veronica Mars.

The story follows a woman named Abby Williams, a successful environmental lawyer living in Chicago. She finds herself taking on a new case that brings her back to Barrens, Indiana, where she grew up. There are a number of medical cases that suggest there is environmental contamination by the town’s biggest employer, Optimal Plastics. Optimal has weaved its way into every aspect of life in Barrens, funding the school extracurricular activities, town events, even offering scholarships to students, so it is hard to find anyone who will speak ill of such a powerful company. While Abby is researching her case, she becomes obsessed with a long lost friend turned enemy who disappeared suddenly at the end of high school, and can’t help but wonder if her disappearance is connected to her current case.

I really wanted to like this book. I like the author as an actress, and the plot sounded interesting. At the end of the day though, this just felt like a drawn out grown up episode of Veronica Mars. Like Erin Brockovich. Don’t get me wrong, I love Veronica Mars, but this just didn’t cut it for me. I found the ending to be rather unrealistic and the “who-dunnit” an easy guess, which totally ruined it for me. I kept telling myself that the character was there to throw you off, that it couldn’t possibly be this glaringly clear, but no…they weren’t and it was.

I think the idea of going back to your roots somewhat overdone. In fact, I remember bringing a ton of books to my favorite used book store for that precise reason…they all had the same structure of going back to where the character grew up to face their past. I think I am over it! I find it sad that it always is the case where the character is doing so well in their big city life, only to go back to a rough country past and confront something they never got over, never able to escape it. Even in the book the main character’s partner is over it pretty quick and leaves her behind. She even gets booted off her own case because she can’t let her past go. I was happy that the book had under 300 pages, I burned through it quickly, hoping things would get better or more suspenseful. I know it is not an easy task to break out of acting in some major roles and turn to writing, and I applaud her for trying. Her writing wasn’t even terrible exactly, I think I just wish she had gone a different way with it all, and with a few tweaks and polishing it could have been so much better, so I do honestly hope she gives it another kick at the can.

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