Tag Archives: Book Review

The Woman in Cabin 10

Since Ruth Ware just had a new book out, I decided it was the perfect time to check out some of her other stuff, since I recommend it often even though I haven't read it. She writes thrillers along the lines of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn, so I knew it would probably be good.
Lo Blacklock is a British journalist who is invited to be on the maiden voyage of a new luxury cruise ship. Lo thinks it will be the perfect way to recover from a recent burglary incident in her flat, but instead she finds herself caught up in what she believes is a sinister plot against a woman no one but her has seen.
Her journalist instinct pushes her to keep digging, despite the danger and her fears and when she finally reaches the bottom, Lo isn't sure how things are going to end for her.
The Woman in Cabin 10 was every bit as exciting as I thought it was going to be. It was a fast, engaging read with lots of logical red herrings along the way. I found myself coming up with various elaborate theories for what was going on. Turned out to be much simpler than I had thought, which of course is the best way for these kinds of stories to work out. But the ending didn't come out of no where. Ruth Ware keeps you guessing, but when she finally reveals it all, it makes perfect sense.
If you're looking for your next exciting thriller, be sure to check Ruth Ware out, she won't disappoint.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

While Neil DeGrasse Tyson may have written this book for people in a hurry, it’s not meant to be read in a hurry. In fact, I read it twice in a row, because I thought I read it too fast the first time to get a good grasp.

That said, this book doesn’t disappoint as a quick introduction into the field of astrophysics. You won’t be able to go out and get a job as an astrophysicist after reading it, but you will know some of the history and the science behind it.

Tyson writes in a fun and easy to understand way, making science seem much less intimidating that it’s otherwise presented. And, authors always earn brownie points from me when they throw in appropriate but snarky comments, so the book is extra good because of those.

Tyson presents basically a consice history of the field of astrophysics, using the framework to explain how science has reached its conclusions for various things, such as the Big Bang, dark matter and dark energy. He also explains how these things interact with gravity to influence stars, planets, galaxies, and possibly even our universe itself. In this book you’ll also find plenty of particles, elements, various kinds of light waves and some references to aliens (but nothing outlandish, this isn’t science fiction).

I’ll admit, a few times as I was reading, I came across passages that I felt could have used some better transitions And information that, though interesting, didn’t quite seem to belong where it was, but sometimes that is personal preference.

On the whole, Tyson’s book, I believe, does what he wanted it to, per his introduction: give you a basic understanding of the field, and leave you hungry for more.

So whether you’re in school, out of school, busy or bored, if you’ve ever looked up at the sky and wondered, this book is for you.

The Book Thief

I’ll just come right out and say it, The Book Thief is a classic of our era. I don’t know how often I get kids coming in for it as part of their required reading for school.

Having now read it, I understand why. Not only is it an excellent story for exploring Workd War II history, but the writing style gives plenty of content for literary study.

The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, is the story of a young girl, Liesel Memminger, and her new life with her foster parents on Himmel Street. Though Germans, Liesel and her family don’t fit the standard mold. With her loyal friend by her side, Liesel finds herself addicted to a thievery, especially of books. Her story is narrated by Death, a mixture of observations from Death and knowledge gathered from Liesel’s own autobiography, which Death managed to obtain.

Liesel’s story revolves around books– the ones she’s given and the ones she takes. Each book is related to a scene or time of her life: her family harboring a Jew in the basement, war-time hardships making themselves known in Liesel’s house, Liesel growing up and forming her own opinions about the Fuhrer’s ideals.

Mixed in with the defining moments are the everyday habits of Liesel’s life, her adventures with Rudy, school, and growing up in general. Together, these form a powerful and heartbreaking narrative.

Zusak uses a unique style to tell Liesel’s story. Death, as could reasonably be expected, idea not always use the English language as humans are accustomed to. This allows for some interesting descriptions that provide a new way at looking at things, from the sunset to a feeling. But for this story, it works, creating a unique and memorable style that would be hard to match.

All in all, the book is worth the read, even if it makes you cry.

The Return

When I saw that Buzz Aldrin had written (or co-written, at least John Barnes authored the book also) a sci-fi book, I couldn’t pass it up.

The Return was written and set in the 2000s. It follows the lives of four people who are inextricably linked. Kids together, Scott, Nick, Thalia and Eddie called themselves the Mars Four and dreamed of going there after growing up in the ’60s. In their adult lives, each one has been individually working toward commercial space travel.

When a routine mission goes fatally wrong, it’s just the beginning of a chain of events that make it seem like someone wants to keep the everyday folks out of space. A bomb set off in the upper atmosphere, putting the crew of the International Space Station in deadly danger, and now only the Mars Four and their individual expertise can save the crew.

The Return is all adventure and action, with a dash of nostalgia. And as it’s written by someone who’s been there, it actually does not read like sci-fi, but more like a fiction book. This isn’t Star Trek or Star Wars, this book reads like something that could happen today, with no magic high-tech gadgets required.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and not just because I love just about anything associated with space. It was fun, the characters felt real and relatable. It had action and intrigue. It was about everything you’d want in a book. Plus, when they did talk about science, it was explained clearly, no fancy jargon and complicated terms, just plain English.

The Return is, however, one of those books that just might turn you into a believer again. Surely the technology is out there, both for commercial space travel and, eventually, for Mars. Some people already firmly believe in that future and are working toward it. After reading this book, you might find a bit of that passion has rubbed off on you too. And even if you’re not signing up for a Mars mission, you might find that you hope we have enough people around who will.

The Lake House

After finally reading The Girl on the Train and enjoying it’s narrative twists and unreliable narrative, as one reviewer called it, I decided I’d keep with the thriller theme and read Kate Morton’s The Lake House.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a lot about the book going in, my mother-in-law had given me her copy after she read it, and while I’m familiar with Kate Morton, I wasn’t really familiar with her work going in (I work at a bookstore, I’m familiar with a /lot/ of authors without knowing anything about them or their books).

It was everything I could have possibly dreamed of, having read the synopsis. Detective Constable Sadie Sparrow is on a leave of absence from her job after getting too emotionally involved in a case of a mother abandoning her child. She takes her “holiday” in Cornwall, visiting the grandfather who raised her. While there, Sadie stumbles onto an old, abandoned house and quickly gets knee deep in the mystery surrounding it.

In 1933 the Edevane family was hosting their annual midsummer party when their young son goes missing, without a trace. Police search the area, but find nothing, and no note is ever discovered. Both surviving sisters carry the wright of guilt, convinced they are the reason their brother was taken. And while they both have moved on and accepted that there are no answers to be had, when Sadie comes along, Alice Edevane, a famous mystery writer, doesn’t take much convincing to unofficially reopen the investigation, and the trail leads them toward conclusions no one expected.

A theme in both The Girl on the Train and in The Lake House is how easily conclusions can be drawn based on partial information, and how easy they are to believe. This technique, the unreliable narrative, is really effective in keeping readers guessing, because as you see things from the view of different characters, you realize each theory makes some sense, and you forget to compare them and look for holes. After all, you’re just reading to enjoy it (although, I like trying to figure out the ending before it’s made completely obvious). In this story, I didn’t guess the ending. I allowed myself to just ride along with the how, though I did notice some inconsistencies in character’s ideas that made me certain their theories were wrong. I’ll proudly admit though, I did guess the ultimate who, so the ending wasn’t completely surprising to me.

Morton also uses various characters to give the background of the story, and to show the events. Sometimes, in stories like these, using various viewpoints can be confusing and, frankly, boring. But Morton doesn’t give the same scene multiple times, instead using different characters to show different moments relevant to them.

Overall, it was a well written book with several storylines woven together to make a complete picture and giving characters depth. It was a fun, fast read, and one I’d recommend to fans of thrillers. While it’s a little more upbeat than is usually my cup of tea, it’s a nice change from everyone dying in the end, or morally ambiguous endings.

Kate Morton is definitely going on the list of authors I’d like to read more of.

The Push

As the possessor of an active imagination, I’ve already read books and thought how cool it would be to live the story, imagining myself in it or doing something similar. Not often do I really wish to have that life. However, reading Tommy Caldwell’s book definitely woke something different in me, and while I don’t want all his experiences, I do wish I had the freedom and money and talent to climb whatever whenever.

I first heard about Tommy Caldwell in 2014, when he and Kevin Jorgeson climbed the Dawn Wall in Yosemite. And even though that was something I only knew about from a friend, I followed the last half closely, and when I found out Caldwell was going to write a book, I awaited its release with lots of excitement.

In The Push, Caldwell talks about growing up outdoors with his family, doing challenging climbs and mountaineering feats with his dad at young ages. He relates his experience of being a hostage in Kyrgyzstan and how that affected his life for years after, and how, in a way, it led to his passion/obsession with the Dawn Wall.

Caldwell’s story is one of perseverance, if nothing else. He dedicated seven years to the Dawn Wall, unable or unwilling to give up without successfully completing it. Nestled inside his honest, somewhat cavalier writing are some quality truths about failure as a tool to inspire greater success.

I appreciated his honesty as well in regards to how various things in his life truly affected him. Caldwell uses his book as a means of reflection, admitting that he doesn’t have all the answers and that his choices may not always have been stellar. But his honesty prompts a feeling of self-reflection in his readers, or at least in me.

Even though, having followed the climb as it happened, I knew how he story ultimately ended. Yet the book is so much more than the story of climbing the Dawn Wall, it’s the story of how Caldwell developed a need for the Dawn Wall, and how upon completion, he understood what was behind the need.

It’s an exciting, fun, and funny read. And whether you climb or don’t climb, it’s worth the time.

The Light Between Oceans

I know this book got really popular when the movie was announced and came out, so when I got the chance, I snagged a copy so I could see what the buzz was all about.

The book begins with Tom and Isabel Sherbourne discovering a dinghy washed ashore with a dead man and a baby inside. Having lost a third baby only weeks before, Isabel convinces her husband to keep the child. Lightkeepers on a remote island and committed to three-year stints, Isabel and Tom say the baby is theirs, knowing it will be some time before they get shore leave and anyone meets the baby.

From there, the story floats back in time, establishing Tom as a military man who served in World War I and showing his upstanding character. When Tom and Isabel meet, they are instantly drawn to each other, and end up marrying.

The story then picks up where it left off in the beginning, and we see them raising the baby–a little girl they name Lucy. But while life on the island is wonderful, when they return for shore leave, things get more complicated, and thus starts a string of events that takes them down a painful and unintended road, and they must face the consequences of having kept the baby, and consider whether their actions were right.

The story starts out kind of slow and it isn’t an action-packed, dramatic story. Instead, as is fitting with its themes, it is a methodical story that establishes its characters and gives reasoning behind their actions. This story largely deals in grey areas of motives, and it challenges readers to deeper thought. Although readers can understand and sympathize with the Sherbournes in the beginning, as the story progresses, you second guess, and you find yourself caught up in the same questions all the characters wrestle with: what is best for Lucy?

This book deals with some heavy stuff, and it hits you right in the heart, for sure. But it’s a good read and a good story, and worth the time to read.