20 September 2014

I was a huge fan of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, and apparently, this is the sort of premise I like in my freaky, horror dystopian novels. Unwind, by Neal Shusterman is one heck of a story, told from the perspectives of three runaways who are to be "unwound" and will be "donating" their body parts in one fell swoop because their parents or guardians don't want them anymore. It's not just about organs in this future society, though, not heart or kidney transplants from accident victims. Now, no longer do you have to deal with that pesky and boring eye color, you can now purchase a new set of eyes from an "unwind" and have the color you want. It is freaky and it is disturbing, particularly in one scene at Happy Jack, a place where all the "unwinds" go to before they undergo the "chopping block." This story is of Connor, Risa, and Lev, as they come of age and run from the law, fugitives from a world that somehow turned into a society that doesn't considered being "unwound" as dying.

Connor is the troublemaker and his parents are done with him; Risa is an orphan and the orphanage is looking to cut costs, and Lev is the religious offering from his family, who has been preparing for this "special" moment his whole life. When Connor, Risa, and Lev cross paths as they run from their fates, with Lev as their hostage, they know they just have to make it until they reach their eighteenth birthday and then they are free.

This is a wild and unforgettable journey, one I won't soon forget. While at first, I wasn't sure about the narrator's intonation, at some point about an hour in, it seemed to *click" and either I got more into the story, or the narrator really got into the groove of it, relaxing the initial monotone, and really digging deeper into each characters' individual personalities, truly giving this story its deserved frightening tension and action-packed ride. By the end of this audiobook, I couldn't go anywhere without listening to it, and made up excuses to go on errands so I could listen to it in the car. I can't tell you anything about what happens at Happy Jack, an absolutely insane camp where the "unwinds" go before their operation is performed, but there is one scene... one scene that really is sticking with me and still freaks me out. And the fact that in this society, people truly believe that these kids aren't dead, but instead are in a "divided state," is just fantastically horror-filled and completely disturbing. And don't worry, the only political agenda is the extreme of a side, whichever side that may be, and it is always scary.

Don't give up on this audiobook because of the first hour or so; stick with it. The story is SO worth it, and I plan to download the rest of the trilogy. Even if there's that one scene at Happy Jack... I can't get that one out of my head at all.

Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: 11/1/09
Audio Time: 10 hours, 10 minutes
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Click here for an audio sample of Unwind by Neal Shusterman, narrated by Luke Daniels.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book from Audible.com

I read this for Stainless Steel Droppings' RIP IX Challenge.
About the Author
Neal Shusterman is an award-winning author who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He is an author, director, and screenwriter, for such projects as "Goosebumps," and is in constant demand to speak at schools and conferences. The Unwind is a trilogy and I've heard is going to be made into a movie.

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About the Narrator (from Goodreads)
Luke Daniels has performed at various repertory theatres around the country, with an emphasis on Shakespeare. His many audiobook credits range from action and suspense to young adult and adult fiction,including works by Philip Roth and John Updike. He currently resides in the Midwest.

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12 September 2014

"Which is harder: devising an unsolvable problem, or solving that problem?"

This is the question at the core of Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X. Japan's most popular best-selling writer develops such a uniquely skilled and suspenseful story of accidental murder, cover-ups, and corrupted, heart-breaking friendships that I haven't read in a long while. It is, in one simple (and just not good enough) word, fantastic.

Yasuko has finally escaped her abusive husband, and she and her teenaged daughter have settled into a new life. When he shows up and demands more money, Yasuko and her daughter have an altercation in their apartment that results in his death. Unbeknownst to them, their next-door neighbor, Ishigami, has heard the entire incident and has offered his "services." Although a brilliant mathematician, Ishigami has devoted his life as a high school math teacher instead of taking the glory road to college research. With available time and a curious mind for always solving problems (and the more intricate, the better), Ishigami offers his help to Yasuko to cover up the death of her former husband. Feeling unable to say no for fear of the police, Yasuko accepts, unaware that Ishigami also has feelings for her.

When top detective Kusanagi arrives to investigate the case, he brings in consultant Yukawa, a fellow classmate from their college days, and now physicist, to help sort out specific details. Yukawa, commonly known as Detective Galileo, has frequently helped the police on other cases, but when he learns that Ishigami was also a fellow classmate and former "competitor" in the world of math and science, Yukawa can't help but get more involved.

This is a brilliant piece of detective-work and suspenseful writing, and I loved every moment of the story and especially the audio narration, performed by Davi Pittu. Suffice it to say that more than likely, you will not be disappointed. With every tangled strand Kusanagi unravels, Ishigami's air-tight explanations that he's provided to Yasuko are insurmountable. As "Detective Galileo," or Yukawa the physicist, dives deeper into the case, he realizes that while he might be coming closer to solving the murder, he might also be very close to losing a close friend. This is a book that you likely will have a difficult time putting down. I loved it, LOVED it. And the end? Aagh. My heart broke on so many different levels for ALL of the characters. LOVED this book.

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: 02/1/11
Audio Time: 9 hours, 2 minutes
Narrator: David Pittu
Click here for an audio sample from The Devotion of Suspect X.

Now, on the other hand, Salvation of a Saint was not as engaging. While all the characters remained, and even a new introduction with Utsumi, who I really liked, a tough and quickly rational assistant to Kusanagi, the tale just didn't have the same brilliant and gasping storyline. I was, while thoroughly involved because of David Pittu's narration, a little bored by the overall case and found some of the methods used by the killer to be a little preposterous, so I pushed through to quickly get through it. A lot of that simply has to do with the fact that The Devotion of Suspect X was so good, to follow it up with the next installment immediately after probably set it up for failure immediately.

I highly recommend The Devotion of Suspect X, and I look forward to the third in the series. I will be enjoying this via the audiobook as well, and am looking forward to more of David Pittu's work.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased both books from Audible.com

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: 10/2/12
Audio Time: 9 hours, 13 minutes
Narrator: David Pittu
Click here for an audio sample from Salvation of a Saint.

About the Author
Born in Osaka and currently living in Tokyo, Keigo Higashino is one of the most widely known and bestselling novelists in Japan. He is the winner of the Edogawa Rampo Prize (for best mystery), the Mystery Writers of Japan, Inc. Prize (for best mystery) among others. His novels are translated widely throughout Asia.

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About the Narrator
David Pittu is awesome. He is an American actor and versatile narrator for everything from The Marriage Plot to The Goldfinch to The 39 Clues children series. He is the 2009 Best Voice in CHILDREN & FAMILY LISTENING: The Maze of Bones, One False Note.

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03 September 2014

Need Some Stephen King for the R.I.P IX Challenge?

According to StephenKing.com, the Encore channel is hosting a month of Stephen King shows and movies, and then will do an all-day marathon in honor of Stephen King's birthday. If you have Encore, here's what can help you for Stainless Steel Droppings' R.I.P. IX Challenge:

Stephen King Month on Encore

Encore will present “The Stephen King Collection” featuring 19 different movies, beginning on Labor Day, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT). On the 21st, they're showing an all-day marathon in honor of Stephen's birthday.

Every night in September at 8:00pm ET/PT

9/1 The Shining, Part One (1997)
9/2 The Shining, Part Two (1997)
9/3 The Shining, Part Three (1997)
9/4 Stand By Me
9/5 Sometimes They Come Back (Begins at 9:00pm)
9/6 Salem’s Lot, Part One (1979), 9:35 pm Salem’s Lot Part Two (1979)
9/7 Dreamcatcher
9/8 Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Part One (1999)
9/9 Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Part Two (1999)
9/10 Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Part Three (1999)
9/11 Carrie (2002)
9/12 Dreamcatcher
9/13 Maximum Overdrive
9/14 Hearts in Atlantis
9/15 Sometimes They Comeback
9/16 Desperation (Pending)
9/17 Dolores Clairborne
9/18 Needful Things
9/19 Secret Window
9/20 The Dead Zone
9/21 Cujo (Part of the all-day Birthday Marathon)
9/22 Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet
9/23 Hearts in Atlantis
9/24 Return to Salem’s Lot
9/25 Maximum Overdrive
9/26 Cujo
9/27 Christine
9/28 The Running Man
9/29 Salem’s Lot, Part One (1979)
9/30 Salem’s Lot, Part Two (1979)

Stephen King’s Birthday Marathon – Sunday, September 21st

7:50am Sometimes They Come Back
9:30am Secret Window
11:10am Hearts in Atlantis
12:55pm Salem’s Lot, Part One
2:35pm Salem’s Lot, Part Two
4:15pm Stand By Me
5:45pm Dreamcatcher
8:00pm Cujo
9:35pm Christine
11:30pm Maximum Overdrive


02 September 2014

R.I.P. Challenge IX

This is my favorite time of the year. Even though North Florida does get a little cooler in the fall, it's just not the same as everywhere up North where I'm from. This is the only time of the year I really, really, miss Baltimore and Boston. I love the cool, crisp weather and bright blue skies and the taste of coffee in the morning when there's just a little bit of a chill all around you.

There's also one other thing I love about the fall, and it comes with ghouls and goblins and all kinds of scary stuff. Halloween is one of my favorite "holidays" and I always choose to read books and watch movies that are just a little bit scarier right about now, much more than usual.

And every year, Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings hosts the R.I.P. (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) Challenge. It's going onto its ninth year in a row, and it's always fun when August rolls around and you know, YOU KNOW that Carl is going to post on September 1st with all of the details and reveal the artwork. And this year is no different. (The artist, Abigail Larson, is amazing, by the way.)

So here's how it works:
  • Click here for Carl's overview that discusses the different levels.
  • Post your reviews on the RIP Challenge link site here.
  • Read other reviews and comment on them if you like.
  • But the most important thing is to HAVE FUN.
I'm opting (as I always do and never achieve, but I'm HAVING FUN, and I need some fun this year) for Peril the First and Peril on the Screen.

And why not do the Peril of the Group Read, hosted by The Estella Society for The Haunting of Hill House, the classic by Shirley Jackson. I might have to do this one...

So, bottom line? Read and watch scary stuff, post about it, and HAVE FUN.