25 January 2016

The Quick, by Lauren Owen

Many moons ago (er, last fall)... I signed up for the always fun annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (RIP) Challenge. The selected book for the readalong was The Quick by Lauren Owen and since I typically am amazing at signing up for challenges, but horrible in completing them, I surprised myself when I started the book and then COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I did succeed in my usual pattern, however, by inadvertently forgetting to post a final review about it, so my apologies to the wonderful Estella Society. I will do much better this year! (I've gotten into a bad habit of not posting as frequently as I used to because of the events in this post; but Thank God, I am all good now.)

I chose to participate in this group read because of one important detail that was included in the intro. "For fans of The Historian and The Night Circus." Yep, I was in. Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian will always be one of my favorite books, and I've read it twice in the past ten years, even hosting a group readalong at On the Ledge Readalongs. The Historian was such a visual experience, incorporating overseas locations and unique meals with an unnamed narrator, that it launched my own interest in researching and posting pictures relevant to the pages our group read together. That was a ride of an adventure that I am always looking to replicate with another story.

Since it's been a few months since I read it, I'm opting to go with the below Goodreads synopsis so I don't miss out on anything, or give away too much.
London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.
While The Quick was much more action-packed than The Historian, the setting and the atmosphere, was equally intense, creating an eerie and contemplative feel that I so appreciate in Victorian/Gothic tales. I loved it. The characters and overall quest fit snugly into the category of Victorian horror and Owen's debut creatively demonstrates the challenge of combining present events with the epistolary genre of letters and diary entries into a distinctly peculiar and thoughtful story of unexpected love, loyalty, and of course, vampires. This was an absolutely fantastic story. The key to it are the characters, who fit a range of the unexpected and curiously hopeful, banded together for the ultimate goal. This is a wonderful story filled with secrets and turns, and one that is perfect for you to put on the list of creepy tales to keep close on cold winter nights. I'm eagerly awaiting the next work from Lauren Owen.

Just as a side note: The Quick was also ranked as one of the best books of the year by Slate.

Here's the original button that The Estella Society created. My apologies to them again that I didn't participate like I intended! But, I did read the book, loved it and will try much harder for the next RIP Challenge!

About the Author (from Goodreads)
Lauren Owen studied English Literature at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, before completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2009 Curtis Brown prize for the best fiction dissertation. The Quick is her first novel. She lives in Durham, England.

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24 January 2016

The X-Files Returns. Tonight.

If you know me even a little bit, you'll know that I am an X-File fan, and have been since I was in college many moons ago. I can't imagine a year going by without watching at least one episode of partners Mulder and Scully, aided by the ever-dependable yet conflicted and awesome Assistant Director Skinner, take on the dark side of monsters and aliens to uncover the truth. Over the past few months, I took a trip down memory lane with each episode of the nine seasons through Netflix, catching up just in time to hunker down with the cold weather and watch the first new episode in sixteen years to premiere tonight. Has it really been that long?

The magic that was this show just doesn't seem to be captured in any other series that walks the line of the spooky and mythical. Even shows like "Fringe," or "Lost," both of which I completely enjoyed, still can't quite match the exact fervor, intensity and cult-like fandom that The X-Files produced. Having watched many shows of the same genre, and over the past few years especially, and then by binge-watching all nine seasons of The X-Files reminded me of just that. There's just nothing like science-fiction, or fantasy fiction, or paranormal fiction, like The X-Files created.

While I'm a complete Mulder and Scully fan, I'm still sad they couldn't extend the show a few more years with Agents Doggett and Reyes. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish really did those roles justice, without taking away anything from the original cast. They were honest to their own characters, finding the humility and goodness of their torn pasts to piece it together with each other, in a somewhat similar "maybe they'll get together" kind of hint to the fans.

Tonight will mark the show's return in a "hit-making" way, according to online rumors, but especially as even stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have admitted needed to be done, because of the way the 2008 film didn't seem to fit with the overall flow and spirit of the show. This is expected to be an incredible two-night premiere (tonight and tomorrow) for the show's return to the small screen. I'm one of the millions of thrilled fans who will be watching and falling in love with the show all over again. I'm hoping that it will spark many returns for as long as it can last.

Are you watching tonight? I'm planning to live tweet, but I don't want to be distracted too much from tweeting to not focus on the show. Throughout the day today, I just couldn't sit still, so I even made (or, tried to make) a cake in honor of tonight's festivities. Don't laugh.

15 January 2016

The Fold, by Peter Clines (Audio Review)

Nothing says "get swept up in a completely awesome and outrageous (and oftentimes hilarious) sci-fi story" like when you start any Peter Clines' novel, and The Fold is no different. I spent every single second I could listening to this book and within a day and a half over one weekend, I was finished.

Mike is just a regular high school teacher. Please keep it that way. Don't get into his life and rummage around in it and then get him wrapped up in some sort of drama he wants no part of. Just don't. He likes things the way they are, and that's just how it is.

When an old buddy of Mike's pulls him into a DARPA secret time travel government project called The Albuquerque Door whose team insists that it's safe to travel through it, Mike's true and intense intelligence finally comes out, whether he wants it to or not. After all, when you're talking about folding time and space so that you can travel hundreds of feet in an instant, how safe can it really be? With unending energy on each page, The Fold has become one of Peter Clines' best efforts of science fiction, time travel, alternate universes and more. This is an absolute ride of fun, and I have yet to be disappointed by any of his work. Peter Clines, one of my favorite authors, no doubt about it.

And oh by the way, Ray Porter was the narrator. We all know he's awesome because he also narrated 14 (also a Peter Clines' novel), and Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningClick here to listen to a sample from The Fold.

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

About the Author
Peter Clines is the author of numerous short stories, Ex-HeroesEx-Patriots–14–The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe. For a more perfect bio to read, click here.
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About the Narrator
Ray Porter is an actor and casting director, known for Almost Famous (2000), Argo (2012) and The Runaways (2010).

11 December 2015

Fear the Sky, by Stephen Moss (Audio Review)

I downloaded this on a complete whim and I'm so glad I did. I've been Netflix-binging all nine seasons of The X-Files in anticipation of their six-episode return to Fox in January, so sci-fi stories featuring aliens is sort of my thing right now.

Fear the Sky was awesome. Just AWESOME.

Earth is a prized commodity to the universe. It is one that in a very short period of time, millions of members of another race, an alien race, will come to take Earth from humans and use it for what they want. Without even wanting to take the opportunity to generate dialogue with humans, the plan is to come, take and destroy.

Before this happens, alien reconnaissance is planned. With agents disguised as human, who supersede all human intelligence and technology, they infiltrate and learn and report back on potential challenges and plan the eventual destruction of all humans.

When one man identifies an anomaly on a visual report of space, the partnership developed within a small but high-level group of people within the United States covering all areas from the military to the government begins, one that must be kept secret even from the President. After all, who would really believe that aliens were going to come to earth, or even that some were already here?

As this small team of devoted and dedicated patriots to the human race begin to investigate, plan, and ultimately defend, Fear the Sky becomes a powerhouse of a sci-fi story that I could not stop listening to. I wanted more - I wanted all of the trilogy released at once.

It is a story a little heavier on the science and technical side than I'm used to, but it was a phenomenal story that I need more of. My only wish was that the word "ignominious" was used less. That's it.

The reader was R.C. Bray, and we all know and love his work anyway. The link to the sample audio is here.

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this from Audible.com via my monthly membership fee.

About the Author (from Goodreads)
Stephen Moss was born in England, but spent time as a child in wildly diverse places, including several years in Brazil, Belgium, and Malaysia.

He eventually settled in New York, but still travels avidly, something he uses as inspiration and input to his writing. Stephen is a fan of Hard SF by masters such as Iain M. Banks, Peter F. Hamilton and Orson Scott Card and the many fantastic writers creating masterpieces every year. 

His first series, The Fear Saga, combines his passion for Hard Science Fiction with his passion for travel. The three-part series takes place across the globe, from London to Brussels, Africa to Antarctica, the Hindu Kush mountains to the back streets of Tel Aviv. The few places in the books which Stephen hasn't been to in person he researches avidly, wanting to put his characters into the reality of their surroundings, and knowing that the settings for a story are as important as the individuals you then paint into them.

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About the Narrator
R.C. Bray is awesome and has narrated several books, but my favorite will always be The Martian.

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UPDATE [01/15/16]: An earlier version of this review incorrectly identified a different narrator for the work. This has been corrected - and my apologies for the error!

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