Kay, Rekindling

My book reviews blog.  I love hot coffee, rainy days, and the ocean.  Oh, and books.  Lots of them.

Oh, the Places You'll Go! - Dr. Seuss image

"It's opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And then things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too."

-Dr. Seuss

I had never read this book from cover to cover, but I was familiar with it from quotes used in speeches and publications. The dean of our college read us a passage to close the graduation ceremony, and even then I did not appreciate how appropriate that passage was for someone entering the real world.

I had forgotten about this book until just recently when I came across a copy and began to read to pass the time. Upon finishing, I was surprised and deeply touched at how simple yet sincere the book's message was. While the book is cute and very appropriate for children, I think it takes an adult to understand and sympathize with the message. The book talks about our journey through life, with all its disappointments and happiness, its unpredictability and uncertainty. As someone who was recently faced with difficult personal and professional choices that veered from plans established years before, I especially took much of this book to heart.

I will return to this book again and again in the future. It's a book that reminds you life is hard and can be lonely, but that despite the difficulties, we can all persevere. The words are simple and upbeat, but behind the colorful images is an unflinching optimism that inspires.

Kafka on the Shore - Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami This is my first Murakami, and I already know that it won't be my last.

This is one of the strangest books I've read. It stretches the boundaries of belief, and when it breaks through into the realm of pure magic, we discover the journey has only begun.

The story is told from two different perspectives. In the first, Kafka Tamura is a fifteen-year-old boy who runs away from home to escape a terrifying prophecy that he will kill his father and sleep with both his mother and sister. Eventually, he ends up at a library and gets tangled up in a complex web of lost love, fate on loop, and ghosts. The second relates the story of Nakata, a mentally simple old man who gained the ability to talk to cats after an incident in his childhood. Following a fateful encounter, he too journeys across Japan, picking up along the way a young truck driver as a companion.

As someone who's never taken philosophy beyond what was required of my Government major, I suspect that much of this book was way over my head. But keeping that in mind, I couldn't stop reading this book unless it was absolutely necessary (namely to sleep, eat, and work) and when I wasn't reading it, I kept thinking about it.

This is not a straightforward book. Much of the novel reads like a patchwork of unrelated scenes and conversations. Some scenes are brutal, some are mundane, and others are achingly lovely. The narrative never loses its dream-like feel, and sometimes it seems like you're walking straight into a nightmare. But within the gentle chaos of the narrative runs a common thread that loosely ties everything together by the end. It's kind of like going to a therapist and revealing your deepest, darkest, most confused thoughts: the images and thoughts you relate are seemingly random and unrelated, but they are exceedingly personal and are somehow are still a grand part of one somewhat unified, coherent thing within you with all its problems and complexities.

I thought a lot about the story, and constantly tried to make connections between events. I read much of this novel on a lawn chair, lazing in the sun, with the sound of the wind in my ears, or at night, with the window wide open and the cool silence wrapping me in a cocoon. The quiet inactivity of both the world around me was the ideal way for me to really get into the story. Though some might disagree, I think the uncertainty makes up a part of the fun of reading a book like this--being driven by curiosity to piece the puzzle together and the satisfaction of resolving a part of a somewhat vague image. Some might find the process tedious, but I never felt bored once while reading. Because despite the unassuming, dreamy narrative, Murakami's words pack psychological punches that hit you when you least expected it and throw your emotions into a flux more than once.

Overall, I would highly recommend this novel. I know this won't be everyone's cup of tea, but even so, I would still recommend that people give this book a try. The book is weird. Really weird. But it's a powerful story that will, at the very least, challenge one to think about this very strange, very familiar world.

Wilde's Fire - Krystal Wade Just got this as an ARC. :)
The Summer Tree - Guy Gavriel Kay The first thought I had when I read the description was, "Gawd, not again *groaning moaning*". I've read attempted to read enough Tolkien wannabes with elves, orcs, and swords, and had enough.

Then, I read extremely favorable reviews on GR about this book. It piqued my curiosity. Wait, what? This is how Tolkien should be written??

What the...


Frankly, upon finishing this book, I'm inclined to agree with the favorable critics. This is very much like LotR, so much that I can see many fans either loving it or hating it. Kay plays and works his magic in Tolkien's idealistic framework. The good v. evil conflict is the same, the inhabitants of Fionavar mirror that of Middle Earth's, and even the characters (particularly the women, though I will get to that) are strikingly similar to the leading lady cast of LotR. So many elements overlap that I initially felt annoyed at the sameness, but, as I got further into the book, I was surprised by how unique this entire story was.

First off, this was an EPIC STORY. Fionavar, as the first of all worlds, is the core for all our mythology and legends. All other worlds spin off Fionavar, which means Fionavar is home to all these myths. Even though we are viewing this world through the eyes of five seemingly ordinary Canadian university students, Fionavar never ceases to lose that EPIC STORY feel, partially because of the EPIC heroes and villains, and partially because the students themselves attain somewhat EPIC status themselves.

Initially the characters felt a little awkward. Maybe it's a demi generational gap, but the their thoughts and behaviors did not feel natural or all that interesting. I constantly got confused between Kevin and Paul, and felt that the rest were more cardboard-y than alive, especially when they arrived in Fionavar. I took issue that no one questioned how freaking bizarre it was to be taken to a whole different world.

But after getting over that initial hump, well, Mind. Blown.

The tale of five university kids stumbling into Fionavar unfolded beautifully. I initially cringed at the thought of modern day people bringing their modern day ideals and airs into a swords-and-sorcery age. But instead of trouncing on customs and cultures, the five took their own unique paths, be it light or very dark. In walking this road, the five were quickly swallowed into Fionavar, body and soul, and became more than just Kevin Laine or just Jennifer Lowell. It actually seems more appropriate to say that they became avatars of the complex ideals that make up Fionavar. This world is alive, people. It has its own customs, its own mythos, and its own presence. Very quickly, the book became as much about Fionavar, as it was about the five.

Fionavar is no happy fairy land. It has beauty, grit, complexity, darkness, and corruption, all subtly woven into the narrative by Kay's gorgeous prose. The man can write, and he does so tastefully. Unlike many modern fantasy writers, nothing about his prose felt gratuitous, and the quality, rather than quantity, of his prose communicated the mood of the scene. I felt completely enraptured by the world of Fionavar, and very, very few books have transported me mind and spirit into its world.

The one major thing that I do take issue with is his treatment of women in the book, particularly Jennifer's story. The reviews prepped me for something awful, and I'm glad I got some notice. Now, since I am affected, I am going to assume that this rape scene has a purpose that will be utterly mind blowing...or else, what the hell, GGK?

Elizabeth noted in her review that GGK writes how he thinks women should behave, and I am inclined to agree. He groups his women into two broad categories: they are either honorable (Kim, Jennifer), if not a bit psycho (the Priestess), or petty and slutty (the Court women, the various tavern girls Diarmiud sleeps with). (Kay's rendition of high fantasy is a little raunchier and sexier than what I remember from LotR, woohoo). Women, perhaps unjustly, are depicted less three dimensionally than others, and do suffer more than men. The ending scene is one example. Another is: the prince embarks on a "quest" with his men to seduce a foreign princess, gets away with it, and in the dizzying elation that follows a mission well accomplished the boys bond over alcohol and more sex with tavern wenches. Later, when the vengeful princess tries to assassinate the prince for her loss of honor, he ends up covering for her when she is found out. It's a weird dynamic that switched the victim-attacker role in favor of the prince and effectively glazed over the fact that what the prince did to her was a scumbag thing to do.

Overall, a solid four stars to this initial book. Despite some hiccups and my own personal issues, this book was a fantastic introduction to what seems to be an exceedingly epic and personal tale. I am definitely a fan, and will be continuing to read.

And if that doesn't convince you enough, I already bought the next book and have begun reading it at the time of writing this review.

4 STARS AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for fans of epic fantasy and high fantasy.
Unraveling - Elizabeth Norris 3.5 to 4 stars for the first half, and 2 to 2.5 for the second.

The premise of this book was what grabbed me. It reads like an X-Files episode with a dash of Veronica Mars, and I do like my plucky heroines spiced with some badass in the face of the unknown. You know, more along the lines of


rather than, like,


By the way, meme notwithstanding, Janelle is an excellent cook, on top of her dividing up her time as a high schooler and a pseudo FBI sleuth.

For the most part, the book did not disappoint. The characters were strong, and the plot was intriguing. But I found that the further I got along in the book, the tight knitted plot started to unravel and fray, leaving some loose ends and less than well explained plot devices.

Plot Summary
After getting hit by a truck, Janelle is miraculously brought back to life by a boy with, well, unusual abilities. In trying to find out more about her accident, Janelle sneaks peaks at her FBI father's case files, finding instead a countdown... But a countdown to what? And how is this mysterious boy involved in what seems to be the impending end of the world?

There were definitely many positive aspects about this book. To name just a few:

1. The Pace: As the synopsis suggests, the story is very action and goal driven. The book checks in at around 450 pages, but it felt more like 200.

2. The Protagonists: Bombarded as we are with doormat zeroines and Viagra testosterone hyped bad boys with a little too many shades of grey, I found Janelle and Ben to be genuine and sweet. Janelle is surprisingly mature for her age. Partially, this stems from her living situation. With a mentally unstable parent, she had become the de facto mother of the household. I liked reading about a girl who is grown up enough to get her priorities straight, especially since, ya know, the world is about to end.

3. The Chemistry: Janelle and Ben have chemistry. I did see some instances of Instalove, especially on Janelle's part, but overall, I did enjoy reading about the two well enough. Plus, some dudes could really take a leaf from Ben's book in courting women.

However, once I read past the 50% mark, the story took turns that literally came out of nowhere. And by turns, I mean sharp, stomach-lurching, tire-screeching turns that confuses more than thrills.

Plot-wise, the direction that the story took, especially after what I'd like to call the Big Freaking Revelation when Ben reveals that he's from a parallel world really, really forced me to suspend belief. There were a million other ways to resolve the countdown that the book was better equipped to explain. I know fiction is about the impossible, but when the impossible isn't really explained enough, I tend to cry WTF and cock my head suspiciously.

Also, I felt there was way too much going on in this book. It was as if Elizabeth Norris was trying to jam in every single YA trope into a scant 450 pages when the plot was already cruising along at terminal velocity. Also, I didn't feel like I really got to know any of the key characters besides Janelle, and when people started getting hurt, I wasn't sure whether I should feel bad for them or for Janelle, who was affected by the loss.

Overall, 3 to 3.5 stars and recommended. The book started off strong, but gradually lost focus in its character development. I would say my feelings post-read were lukewarm, especially after the end, though more on the warmer side than not. Still, I think this book has enough fun and action that it would appeal to a lot of people, so if you get a chance and enjoy YA, definitely pick this one up!
The Merchant's Daughter - Melanie Dickerson Nicely written historical Christian romance. Review to come.
The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch This is one of the most unique books that I've had the utmost pleasure of reading in a long, long time. The best way to describe this book is that is has a dam-breaking volume of pure, unadulterated


People compare this book to the likes of The Godfather and Ocean's Eleven. I'll follow the pattern and compare the book to the grit and vulgarity of Goodfellas! But such flattering associations notwithstanding, this book is undeniably unique and stands strong by itself.

This book is an opus of careful planning and pure wit. The plot is labyrinthine, the prose has just as many twists and turns as the plot, the characters are grade-A smartasses with healthy helpings of charm and wit, and the violence has as much flair and color as a Camorri nobleman's pantyhose.

The world of Locke Lamora is also as quirky and dangerous as the characters. Camorr, a Renaissance Venice-like city-state with a very Sicilian mindset, was the perfect backdrop for the novel. Baked in corruption and crime as well as ostentatious wealth, Camorr boasts great and glittering persons residing in their high towers as well as crooked thieves living in graveyards and fortress strongholds. The city is also encircled by canals filled with terrifying sea creatures as filthy as the polluted waters. Kind of like...


(This was my train of thought when Jean and Bug take a night's swim in the water after Locke got dunked in a barrel of horse piss.)

Serving as our bridge between these two worlds are the Gentlemen Bastards, a band of merry and brotherly thieves, who rob great sums exclusively from the wealthy. We first meet the main characters as they are planning a heist to relieve a nobleman of half his material wealth: newbie Bug who is eager to impress the Gentlemen Bastards more than steal bags of gold; the insatiable Sanza twins, jacks of all trades; strong and dependable Jean whose violent temper instills fear in the biggest and strongest men; and the brains behind all operations, Locke Lamora, swashbuckling trickster who doles out Oscar-worthy performances during his confidence games.

Like Locke, each of these characters were incredibly fleshed out as unique individuals with their quirks and faults. The interludes that showed glimpses of Locke's and Jean's initiation as Gentlemen Bastards added much dimension to their overall development.

Be warned that in Camorr cursing is as common as sharks (oh yes, I did say sharks), and it is most definitely not PG-13. But I can honestly say that vulgarity was never as melodious to my ears as it was in this novel. And the cursing is just kind of tossed around...

in factual statements: "There are only three people in life you can never fool--pawnbrokers, whores, and your mother. Since your mother's dead, I've taken her place. Hence, I'm bullshit-proof."

in prophecies: "Some day, Locke Lamora," he said, "some day, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope that I’m still around to see it."

and in metaphysical inquiry: "I can't wait to have words with the Gray King when this shit is all finished," Locke whispered. "There's a few things I want to ask him. Philosophical questions. Like, 'How does it feel to be dangled out a window by a rope tied around your balls, motherfucker?"

Ahhhh... music to my ears.

Overall, this was an insanely enjoyable read that merits 5 GOLDEN STARS. If you like adventure, heists, and a twisting and turning narrative, definitely pick this one up!
Wool 3: Casting Off - Hugh Howey As with all other Wools before this, the narrative was engaging, the world building was evocative, and the plotting was deliberate. Nothing felt forced or contrived. Also, as with the previous Wools, the tone of this novella was unique. The language was more direct and deliberate, compared to the Wool 1's haunted feel or Wool 2's more reflective tone.

My only criticism is that I didn't connect with the main character as much as I did in the two previous books. Despite her hard working nature, I found her a little naive and slow to catch onto IT's devious plotting.

Overall, this was a great story and a welcome journey back into the silo. 3.5 to 4 stars for this novella, and highly recommended for sci-fi/post-apocalyptic fiction fans who are not quite yet ready to commit to a long novel.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin Dreamy prose and an even dreamier plot.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms refers to the collective world, governed by the god-favored Arameri clan. After the death of the exiled Arameri heir, the head of the Arameri clan names his granddaughter Yeine heir to the entire Hundred Thousand Kingdoms...along with two other Arameri contestants. When Yeine enters Sky, the Arameri castle suspended in the air by an impossibly thin column of rock, she must pit herself against her two deadly competitors while also negotiating with ancient, volatile gods that roam the castle halls, imprisoned in their mortal shells.

First off, this is how a book about gods should be written. After a war amongst the three "founding" gods, the one victorious god punished the others by imprisoning them in mortal bodies and binding their existence to the Arameri. These imprisoned gods were made subject to the commands of their Arameri masters, and for the past centuries, the Arameri called upon the gods' awesome power to subjugate their enemies and establish their dominance over the world. In light of this, the author does a fantastic job humanizing the gods while maintaining their otherworldly alienness. The child god Sieh was especially well written. The author elegantly resolves the paradox of an infinitely old god with a child's mindset.

However, perhaps because the focus of the novel was on the myth- and world-building, the plot seemed sluggish. If you're expecting political intrigue or power plays, you'll be disappointed. Perhaps it's because we join at the near end of things, but the two other competitors are already established figures and the other Arameri seem hopelessly docile to their whims.

Also, Yeine does not expectedly overthrow the status quo. Yeine, when we meet her, seems to be placed in an impossible situation. Does she claw her way out through wiles and daring? She tries a little initially, but the answer is a resounding I WISH THAT WERE THE CASE. Yeine is no coward and has a good head on her shoulders, but some of her actions to win over supporters or protect her interests were quite juvenile. Given her lack of preparation, it's understandable, but I wish she took more part in the events around her instead of just watching and having things fall into her lap. Everything just kind of...resolves itself, like a package wrapped in glitzy paper and tied together by a bow, and Yeine is there to pull on the ribbon.

Therefore, I settled on 3 STARS for this book. 5 stars for top-notch creation myth-building and an incredibly refreshing outlook on gods, 2 stars on the static plot and main character, and 2 stars for the writing. The prose wasn't bad...it was quite beautiful at times, actually. But I was not a huge fan of the pseudo stream-of-consciousness style interruptions to the story.

Recommended for fans of fantasy, especially fantasy dealing with the divine, but in my opinion, there is little in the way of character (with the notable exception of Sieh).
Flame of Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters, #6) - Juliet Marillier OMFG, ANOTHER SEVENWATERS BOOK?!?!

Ms. Marillier, I only have one thing to say to you:

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) - Charlaine Harris image

I'll admit it. After the watching the first season of True Blood a year ago, I picked up this book with some expectations: that it has (1) a lot of sex, (2) a lot of gore, (3) a lot of wild personalities and (4) never-ending hilarities à la Jason's experience with V in the first season.

[All illustrations of #4 removed for overt sexuality and dangerously addicting laughing spells for those inclined toward stupid humor, like I am]

What did I get?

A naive southern waitress with very stilted sense of the world around her, and bland supporting characters with personalities like tepid tap water sparsely flavored with Kool-aid.

What a misdirect.

This is one of those rare books whose TV adaption is leagues better than the original book. To be fair, the show is exceptionally good--or at least, the first season is. It does a fantastic job establishing the sticky sensuality of the trashy side of Louisiana: the muggy heat, the beautiful half naked people living in trailers, trashy promiscuity tempered (okay, more like enhanced) by old fashioned quasi-Southern, quasi-Christian prudeness.


Even the vampires do it!

In the book, I didn't really see any of that. Partially, it's because the entire story is driven by Sookie's perspective. But mostly, the writing itself was, eh, lukewarm. I wasn't very convinced by Sookie and Bill's romance. The relationship between Sookie and the grandmother who raised her was mild, at best. There is very little descriptive writing to speak of, which is a shame since the setting of the book is so unique.

One aspect of the book that I did enjoy, though, was being in Sookie's naive mind. She doesn't pretend to be perfect. She's prone to gossip and judging, and she has a fairly strong reason for not being with men. Despite some weird choices in fashion (still can't decide if it's a reflection of Charlaine Harris's own tastes or whether Sookie is a girl with a sickeningly sweet tendencies towards clothes suited for little girls) and her odd inclinations to be so focused on only Bill, Sookie is an interesting protagonist. Her mind reading disability wasn't quite so unbelievable, and despite the unusual talent, Sookie didn't come off as a Mary Sue.

Also, props to Charlaine Harris for having the guts to apply the stereotype of the trashy, overly sexual, uneducated person on virtually every single character in the book, and still making it amusing and accessible to a very large readership.

Overall, 2.5 to 3 stars for the effort and a few hours of amusement. Despite my criticism, the story as fun, sometimes annoying, and I didn't hate it. Recommended for people who want something mindless but fun.
Confessions of a Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella If you know anyone that is impulsive, spendy, and irresponsible, do not let him/her read this book.


Because for any normal woman (or man--I must avoid gender stereotyping) with above average impulsive shopping tendencies, this book will make him/her feel better about his/herself.

Take me, for example. When I am confronted by a cute pair of shoes or some colorful household item, I get kind of...well...impulsive, spendy, and irresponsible. Sometimes, my willpower can overrule that temptation, though passing through the Times Square and the Fifth Ave area multiple times during the week for work really weakens my resolve.

But the girl in this book? Imagine the above scenario on crack plus the mentality of a hyped up mallrat who's won a $100,000 dollars. Enough money for it to become a sizable investment, but little enough that it could probably be spent in a half a day if all that person did was shop couture.

Are you kind of disgusted yet? Or are you secretly hoping that person will indulge?


Becky, the protagonist, literally just keeps spending and spending and spending and spending, despite the bills that are piling up in her desk drawer. In order to escape her debts, Becky dreams up the most ridiculous "spend less, make more" schemes, all which crash and burn before they even begin. After each failure, we watch her spend more money on things she doesn't need that leads her down a dark spiral of debt and self loathing.

In a weird, twisted way, it's kind of entertaining and a little harrowing. Who hasn't felt that guilt before, buying something on a whim that is inessential to survival? It's a very touchy issue, but the author explores the mentality of a woman trapped by the glitter and glam of a highly materialistic society very well. It's a bit exaggerated, but I bet the core issues resound in the minds of millions of people.

What I really disliked about this book, though, was that Becky's rehabilitation was just too darn easy. I'm willing to forgive a lot in this book, but not the assumption that the only criteria of getting one's life back together after repeated financial purging of one's bank account and credit score is to be a good person. You get the guy, the job, the money...only after bothering to care about someone else for once? Puh-leeze. I'd been hoping that life would smack some more sense into this silly airhead, not reinforce her bad habits.


She's still a silly airhead after the book... Perhaps just a little more bearable.

Overall, I'm hovering between 2.5 stars to 3 stars. The writing wasn't fantastic but it wasn't terrible either, and there is a certain addicting quality about this book that doesn't let you go. Recommended for some people with a lot of patience, and definitely not recommended for people who hate shopping or hate to take their girlfriends/boyfriends/wives/husbands/kids shopping.
Marked (Soul Guardians, #1) - Kim Richardson image

No, monkey, NO! Do NOT mislead the readers!

I give up. If you asked me whether gauging my eyes out with a spoon would be less painful than the thought of finishing this book, I'd be inclined to agree.

Well, not really. But still.

I read 50% of this book, and I can't read any longer. This book is just bad. Badly plotted, badly written, and just plain bad. The dialogue is immature, and the story is stagnant. The concept is inoffensive yet unoriginal: A girl dies and is recruited to become a guardian angel (GA). Her main job is to save the lives of people who will be killed, and if she fails (which she does two out of two times, up until I read), she must fight off demons that try to eat the souls of the dead. Her Petty Officer and direct superior is David, a handsome guy who...er...wait, I think that's all there is to him. David's good lookin' and the girl, Kara, well, she's just there.

At best, every single character is a caricature of YA Mary/Gary Sues, from Kara's insufficiently pretty face that despite its normalness lands a "hottie" like David in the afterlife, to David's insufferable arrogance that is supposed to come off as charming but fails. Even the monkeys that run the elevators are mean-spirited creatures that attack you solely to eat...dead bits of scalp...from your head.


I'll end this review with a few choice quotes that convinced me to power down my Kindle and say Bon Voyage, Book:

"I wonder what is going on in his head. How can he risk the lives of other angels?" [asks Kara]
"'Cause he's a douche bag." [answers badass David]

They [pretty girls at the club] all gave Kara the what-are-you-doing-with-such-a-hottie look. And when David wasn't looking, Kara whirled around and gave them the finger--followed by the biggest smile she could muster.

Good riddance. 1 star, and perfect for those looking for a book on How to Write Bad Modern Young Adult Protagonists.
Wool 2: Proper Gauge - Hugh Howey WOOL 2 is a solid follow up to Wool. In this story, we get more intimate with the inner politics and economy of the silo, and those who play the game.

Following the events in Wool, the Mayor and her Deputy find themselves without a sheriff. Their chosen replacement resides in the Mechanics department, many floors below the Mayor's office (which is the closest to the surface). The Mayor and the Deputy decide to embark on a quasi journey deep down into the earth on foot to meet the replacement face to face. An unusual decision considering that the candidate is stationed like fifty floors down and the Mayor is an older lady. Along the journey, we see glimpses of silo society, as well as get introduced to some antagonistic parties in the silo.

What struck me first about this story was the subtle, lyrical writing. Here is the first sentence of the book:

Her knitting needles rested in a leather pouch in pairs, two matching sticks of wood, side by side like the delicate bones of a wrist wrapped in dried and ancient flesh.
This opening was so perfect in setting the mood and was so evocative of the Mayor's character. The author does a great job fleshing out this aging Mayor and her hopes for the future of the silo.

The second thing I liked is the world building. Don't be fooled by the happy colors on the cover: living underground must really, really suck. It's like living in a windowless room all your life...breathing stale air 24/7, being warmed by generators despite the seasons, and never ever seeing sunlight. He doesn't make a point about describing each generator or every inch of the metal and concrete interior, but somehow, in his own subtle way, the author conveys the palpable claustrophobia and grayness of the silo.

The only criticism I had was that at times, the narrative moved a little too slowly. This is understandable since the narrative is largely introspective, but some scenes, especially the emotional tension between the Mayor and Deputy hovered between nostalgic and over sentimental.

But other than that, READ THIS BOOK and SUPPORT THE AUTHOR. Seriously. This little gem deserves more recognition, and at a little over 100 pages, this is well worth your time.

4 solid stars, and highly recommended!
Wool - Hugh Howey This is a short book, around 60 pages, and well worth the read if you have an hour to spare. Despite its length, the story was well paced and very well developed. I've read books that are more than four times as long with less going on than WOOL. The book description does a great job summarizing the plot, so all I’ll say on that end is that the plot is quite unique and keeps you guessing until the end.

Besides the story, what I liked the best about WOOL was how immediately familiar such a barren world felt. Living underground is a commonly used theme in post-apocalyptic fiction. However, in WOOL, the author goes one step further to get into the head of the main character and make us feel what he feels: the claustrophobia of living underground, the almost primal urge to feel something real and natural, not man-made.

The ending, while I was able to predict what would happen, still came as a shock to the senses. What I will say is that things do not appear as they seem, in more ways than one.

For its ingenuity and great storytelling, 4 STARS and highly recommended, especially for people who like post-apocalyptic settings.
The Long Walk - Stephen King If this book does not make you feel physical pain, I don't know what will.

This isn't a book about killer clowns or haunted hotels. It's not a Hunger Games type of book, despite the "game show" element of the Long Walk, nor is it a world attached to any tower, Dark or not. This book is in-your-face and physical, while simultaneously never losing that dreamy, philosophic quality of existenstial fiction.

The premise of the book is very simple: Every year, 100 boys enter a contest called the Long Walk, and the winner gets all his heart desires. Each contestant has to maintain a pace of 4 miles per hour or more, or else he gets a warning. If the boy who gets the warning can keep walking 4 miles per hour or faster for the next hour, the warning is revoked. However, if the boy collects three warnings, the next time he slows down, he's shot in the head and out of the game.

I love this book, but it's really hard to communicate what I think it's trying to relate. As I'm writing this review, I'm desperately trying to organize my jumbled thoughts. The best I could do is to divide the book into two sections that broadly describe which parts of this book stood out to me the most: The Deeper Meaning (as I see it) & How it's Done and The People.

The Deeper Meaning (as I see it) & How It's Done

The physical aspect of the journey immediately comes to the spotlight. You think you can outwalk 99 boys? Well, despite the 100% chance of someone actually doing it, you're 99% going to be the one to die either from exhaustion or carelessness.

The story's downward spiral from the optimism of the first 10 hours to the torturous hell that is the last 10 hours is slow, relentless, and ultimately certain. Some of the boys' death were incredibly cringe worthy, not because their death was bizarre or fantastic, but because it's so damn relatable. I can't relate to a woman running away from her ghost-possessed husband as much as I can imagine my legs giving out after hours of walking in my own blood and pus.

But what's extraordinary about this novel is despite its physicality and its real grit, it's very spiritual and contemplative. Ultimately, this book questions what it means to live through the eyes of one boy (and 99 others) who are walking right into the arms of death.

As the boys break down physically, their minds deconstruct past the point of madness until they become lifeless, soulless automatons. I think it's at this point, when the boys are broken beyond exhaustion, that King really questions the value of life in the midst of such suffering, and how we push beyond sanity to sustain life. King doesn't point at authority or paternal figures to place blame on how extraordinary and torturous this desire to live can be. It's the walker who chooses to go on the Long Walk that, in the end, leads to death, no matter what we do.

And life isn't nice. It won't slow down for you. Got blisters on your feet? Tough. Can't climb that hill after walking +24 hours? You'd better. Got to take a shit? If it takes longer than three warnings, you're going to die with your pants around your ankles.

It seems, in this light, that life is much crueler than death.

The People

Ah, the other great part about this book--and what makes this book so amazing!

Unlike many of King's works, this book is not atmospheric. With the exception of comments about the weather and the terrain (obvious factors to consider when walking quite literally until death), the entire narrative is solely focused on the Long Walk itself and the people who are a part of it. I was hesitant to shelf this book under "dystopian" because I don't really know if it's a dystopia. All I know is that the Major, whoever he is, seems to be in charge (how much, I don't know) and the Long Walk is something celebrated by everyone who doesn't partake in it.

All we get to know is Garraty, the main character in the story, and the other boys he meets in the Long Walk. None of these characters are forgettable. Garraty, McVries, and even Barkovitch are some of the most developed, fleshed out characters that I've had the pleasure of reading. The boys' interactions, teetering between the desire for the other to die and genuine camaraderie, were incredibly complex and touching. Whenever I read about a gunshot, I desperately hoped that it wasn't one of the boys that I knew because they were so real and likeable.

Amid the hardship and torture, something about this book was very sincere, and despite what King may have intended, characters like McVries and Garraty made the journey extraordinarily...enjoyable, if not more emotionally painful.

This book is something that will always remain in my mind. Not only was the writing engaging and visceral, but it struck a chord deep within me. Some people may not enjoy the book. It's raw, painful, and depressing. But on the other hand, it challenges, breaks, and strips bare the human soul, and ultimately the sympathy such an act invokes is an intense experience.

5.0 stars and highly recommended!

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