02 October 2015

A few years ago, I read Wool Omnibus and immediately proclaimed it to be the best book I had read all year. The best. I still stand by that when I look at the list now. And thank you, Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, for first posting about it!

And now I finally, FINALLY picked up books 2 and 3 and am kicking myself that I didn't read these in quick succession. Allow me to give you a brief review by saying you're missing out on all things incredible if you don't dive into this unique world.

I'm going to cheat a little bit and use a few lines of my review of the first installment to start:
I couldn't believe how sucked in I was. Each character was so thoroughly developed and the action so intense that I happily read the entire book on my iPhone. That means about 1200+ pages (screens?) that I flew through, desperate to know what happened next. It is one of the BEST books I have ever read in my LIFETIME, and is my absolute favorite book of the year. This, when released in print next year by Simon and Schuster, will be picked up on the day of release and will rest nicely on my bookshelf next to Stephen King's The Stand, Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth, and other favorites that I always want to have at my fingertips. As many of you know, science fiction is not one I'm that used to, so I can easily assure you that if your reading preferences include political corruption, mystery, thrillers, suspense, love, and more, I highly recommend that you step outside of your boundaries and do a dual risk of reading a self-published tale and one that just happens to be labeled as science fiction. The bottom line? I LOVED THIS BOOK.

Where Wool describes a suspenseful period in the world of silos set underground, Shift goes back to the start and outlines how the silos were first envisioned, drafted, built, and ultimately inhabited. Donald, a young congressman with a friendship with a high-ranking senator results in Donald being called on to use his architectural skills and draft a "what if" scenario - if humans had to live underground, how would they do it? What would they live in? Donald, trusting and sensitive, could never have imagined that his ideas would be built, and once they are, that they would ever be used. The reason why is never fully explained to him. Why should it? This senator, so much like a father-figure, is his guide.

Shift encompasses three "shifts," work conducted by the same group over a period of many years, made possible by a simple pill created to erase the past and make mindless the workers to monitor and manage a world very different than what they ever previously lived in. While Shift was sometimes more tedious than Wool, it was a crucial puzzle piece in the overall series and can't be skipped. I would urge you, however, to not take years in-between books the way I did. It's worth it to go back to back.

And then Dust. Ahh. This beautiful installment captures the magic that was Wool and more so. It returns back to characters from Wool and places them in situations to engage with the characters from Shift, and it is awesome. Dust is what I remember Wool to be, and I keep shaking my head when I remind myself that these are self-published books (although Simon & Schuster did convince the author to release Wool in print, which brought a larger fandom). There is no big-five publisher responsible for editing any of it. This is the author, enveloping himself in such a unique world and delivering a knock-out punch to those who feel a self-published book is just not as good as one you'd pick up at the store. This entire series begs to differ with that argument, and wins. He isn't limited by the publishing world to release his books at a certain pace, and after a series of teams edit away the core of it. He writes how he wants to write and releases it whenever he wants to. He has complete control over it and for fans like me? It works because I can keep diving into these worlds whenever I want.

Hugh Howey's work is incredible. It makes no difference if you're a sci-fi or fantasy fan. His robust repertoire are stories that deal with regular people in unique worlds and situations. It's just right for someone who isn't used to these genres. Take a chance. Get his work. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Publisher of Shift: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date: 1/28/13

Publisher of Dust: CreateSpace
Release Date: 8/17/13

FTC Disclosure: I purchased and downloaded this story directly to my iPhone.

About the Author
Hugh Howey is the bestselling author of the self-published phenomenon that is the Wool series. He is also the author of the Molly Fyde series and a host of others that can be found by clicking here. He is currently on the trip of his life by sailing the boat of his dreams, which he plans to be on for at least the next decade. And he's writing. Thank goodness.

Hugh Howey is extremely active with his fans and on social media (and with sailing the world, I'd really like it if he got on Periscope, too!), so here are the links where you can visit the author:

28 September 2015

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (RIP Challenge) X

For this year's tenth anniversary, Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings has asked the fabulous Estella Society to host the ever-creepy RIP Challenge. And even though I'm way behind the times to inform you, I'll add one more drop in the vast and ginormous book blogger bucket about this always fun and eye-opening celebration of all things autumn and spooky and to the things that make us jump when we know THEY'RE RIGHT BEHIND US.
First off - thanks to Carl for creating this incredible annual event that he's diligently and so professionally hosted for nine years. You're awesome, we love ya!
I'm late to the party. As per usual. However, here are the details that I'll be participating in (for full details, click here):

Pick a book, film, short story, television show, etc., that falls into one of the categories below:

Dark Fantasy.
  • Which Challenge Level Did I Pick? I'm going in low with my goals because heck, I can't even participate in my own challenges! So I'm selecting Peril the Third, which is reading at least one book. (I haven't picked a book yet. Give me a recommendation? Please?)
  • Am I Watching Anything Creepy? I've been Netflix-binging on The X-Files in preparation for their six-episode return on Fox in January, so I've selected Peril on the Screen.
  • What About a Readalong?? Yes! RIP X Readalong: When I read the description of this book being compared to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (which I ran a readalong for five years or something ago - with pictures!), I thought I needed to get on it and with a quickness... it's entitled The Quick by Lauren Owen (again, I'm late to the party as the dates are 9/18 through 10/18, so I'll try and catch up, maybe...)
  • Where do I Post My Reviews? All posts/reviews should be added to this link here - make sure to visit other bloggers to comment on their reviews, that's how the fun is had, my friends
  • Where Are the Full Details? Click here to visit the Estella Society's welcome post.
So here's all the beautiful artwork by artist Abigail Larson:

30 August 2015

The Martian, by Andy Weir (Audio Review)

My  Instagram post about The Martian audiobook is:
If you listened to The Martian by Andy Weir, narrated by R.C. Bray and you didn't like it, WE CAN NO LONGER BE FRIENDS.
 I really should just leave it at that.

Fine, so here's more. Mark Watney is the only member of a crew who survived a devastating dust storm on Mars after being the first man to walk on the red planet. His commander and the rest of the crew "confirmed" he had died and without risking more lives to secure his body and bring him back, they make the heart-wrenching decision to leave him. The only problem is that Watney did survive, and somehow he's got to figure out how to stay alive until rescue comes. And in the meantime, he should probably figure out how to communicate with them also so that they know he actually did make it through the dust storm. When I write "meantime," I should clarify that I'm speaking in days.... as in hundreds of days. Somehow, in those hundreds of days, Mark Watney has to keep his air supply going, feed himself, keep his electronics up to par, maintain his humor, and generally just NOT DIE.

Through intelligence, training, dedication, and absolute extreme humor, Mark Watney is one of the most engaging characters to get to know. With his journal and video logs, combined with life on earth responses and characters who ranged from the tight-assed (but completely understandable) PR specialist and the brilliant but relaxed research scientists, the audiobook version was a winner in every way. While there were more than enough moments that had me cracking up, the successful balance of scenes that made me hold my breath wondering if Watney would make it out of this one continued and I refused every excuse to take a break from listening. I'm sure this has been written already somewhere by someone much smarter than me, but this was Apollo 13 on Mars, and DAMN IT WAS AWESOME.

It's going to be a movie and Matt Damon will play Mark Watney. I think he's a PERFECT choice, along with the rest of the cast. I just hope and pray they stay true to the book's humor and sincerity.

The story is fantastic, R.C. Bray as the audiobook narrator is incredible, and the author rocked it. Matt Damon, there's a lot riding on your shoulders, my man. I'm pulling for you.

As I mentioned earlier, if you read The Martian or listened to the audiobook, and didn't like it, we really, really have to reconsider our friendship. #truthhurts

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this audiobook via my Audible.com membership.

About the Author (from his website)
ANDY WEIR was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.

12 August 2015

"Because survival is insufficient."

So proclaims the tattoo on Kirsten Raymonde's arm, as she works with The Traveling Symphony, more than ten years after almost 99% of the world succumbed to a deady flu outbreak. Traveling with her fellow actors and musicians to ensure that the arts never die, Kirsten becomes one of the key figures to the description of life after.

Kirsten Raymonde once performed on stage with a famous actor from Hollywood, Arthur Leander, when she was a child. Her most vivid memory of life before is the night he died onstage of a massive heart attack. Jeevan, once a member of the paparazzi and now an EMT, rushes onstage to try to bring Arthur back to life, and Clark, an old friend of Arthur's, is the one who calls Miranda to tell her the news. Miranda, a high-powered executive in the shipping world and one of Arthur's ex-wives, is on the other side of the world, successful in both her career and in her ongoing hobby of drawing and writing her graphic novel Doctor Eleven, full of imagination and adventure in an otherworld known as the "Undersea." That very same night, a deadly flu outbreak quickly tore through civilization, frightening viewers watching the news and eventually killing nearly everyone on earth.Within a few weeks, the once beautiful life of civilization and law and order was over. 

Alternating between the years after devastation and the years before, Emily St. John Mandel's delicately detailed design of life is incredibly vivid. Focused on a few key characters, the descriptions of the flu, the desolation following it, and how survivors crafted solutions to maintain life is brilliant. And my favorite character, Miranda, and her ongoing project of Doctor Eleven, was fantastic. I am thrilled to hear that the author is working on bringing Doctor Eleven truly into the graphic novel arena. I'll certainly be first in line to check that out.

Post-apocalyptic fiction for die-hard fans can be very specific, and for me, Station Eleven was divinely sad, thoughtful, and has easily secured its place on my own personal "Best Books Read in 2015."

Kirsten Potter, the narrator, fit perfectly. Her voice smoothly fit into each of the characters well and I enjoyed listening to her tell me the story. I don't believe I've listened to her before. That can always be a little scary, trusting a voice you've never listened to before tell you a story, but Potter was exceptional. I'll look for more from her again.

We are all connected, whether by a tiny thread or stronger, but somehow, the link is undeniable. And in Station Eleven, the characters are tied together so delicately that it is incredible how Emily St. John Mandel has delightfully woven them through into an incredible adventure of lives lived after everything we've ever always trusted and believed would never change has now broken down.

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this audiobook through my membership from Audible.com

About the Author (from her website)
Emily St. John Mandel is the author of four novels, most recently Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award. A previous novel, The Singer's Gun, was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband. 

Visit the author:

About the Narrator
Kirsten Potter rocked this audio. Here is a complete list of everything on Audible.com that she has performed. I'm sure that you won't be disappointed. Click here to listen to a sample from Audible.com

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