Archive for the ‘ Book Review ’ Category

Book Review: The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

You’ll notice the format is a bit different than usual. As this is a memoir, some of my review categories don’t really apply.

The World's Strongest Librarian at Quintessentially Bookish

Release Date: May 2nd 2013
Publisher: Gotham
Pages: 291

Lightness of Dust

From the book jacket:

Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn’t officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6’7” when—while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints—his Tourette’s tics escalated to nightmarish levels.

Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman—and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison—taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission through strength-training.

Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette’s.

Overall Thoughts:

I’m not usually a big reader of memoirs, but I really enjoyed this one.   I can’t resist a book that largely features a love of reading and, of course, librarianship.  Hanagarne is open about both the good and the bad in his life and he writes about both in such a way that it’s impossible not to like him.  I especially loved when he was writing about his childhood reading and visits to the library.  Everything felt so familiar; parts of it were like reading about myself as a kid.  His stories and thoughts about working in the library were a great mixture of hilarious, sad, and powerful.  If anything, I would have liked more of those.  However, as the strength training is what helped him with his Tourette’s, it is a large part of the book.  It was also a part that I was surprised to find so interesting.

Writing Style:

Hanagarne’s writing benefits from his love of reading.  His book reads quickly, much like fiction, due to the great pacing, plotting, and characterization.  Though his writing isn’t overly flowery or stylistic, he words things in a very appealing way.  I found myself marking favorite lines over and over again.  It was really hard to choose one.

Extras:

Each chapter starts with a classification listing for the subjects mentioned in the chapter.  It’s a nice touch.

Favorite Line:

But while we may never find specific, actionable solutions, a good library’s existence is a potential step forward for a community. If hate and fear have ignorance at their core, maybe the library can curb their effects, if only by offering ideas and neutrality. It’s a safe place to explore, to meet with other minds, to touch other centuries, religions, races, and learn what you really think about the world…To see the value of a library, ignore adults. Find an inquisitive child who doesn’t have an iPhone yet, take them to the library, and tell them they can learn anything they want there.

Read This If You Like:

Memoirs.  Or, read it if you don’t.  It’s a great starter memoir for those who don’t read or like them.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I did not receive any compensation for this review. All opinions here are my own.

Find Josh Hanagarne online: Goodreads // Amazon // Website

Book Review: The Lightness of Dust by M. L. Weaver.

Lightness of Dust Review at Quintessentially Bookish

Release Date: October 15 2012
Publisher: Luna Risen, LLC
Series: The Meronymy (#1)
Pages: 151

Lightness of Dust

From the book jacket:

In ancient Anatolia, a young healer fights to reunite with her true love despite her father’s desire to profit from her gift.

In Depression-era Seattle, the caretaker of the Persephone Music Hall finds inspiration for his art in the arms of a beautiful foreign violinist.

A university professor in modern-day California struggles to keep his lab and his marriage from the clutches of his enthusiastic new grad student.

A mysterious thread draws these lives together across the span of history and summons one of them toward an unspeakable fate. Follow the thread as mortal cares scatter with The Lightness of Dust

Plot:

Kere is a teen girl living in ancient Anatolia. Her betrothed has left on a ship to gain his fortune and she is stuck with a greedy father who wants to use her gift of healing to his advantage by giving her to the priests, therefore preventing her from marrying.   During the Depression, Sam does maintenance at the Persephone Music Hall, but art is his passion.  He’s incredibly talented, but poor, so he is shocked when Lily, the star violinist, falls in love with him.  Jake is a modern day professor who’s once great marriage is failing due to his new job and his new assistant.  All three stories are wildly different, but they all have one hidden secret in common.

Overall Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book.  I finished the entire book is less than a day because I was so curious to find out how everything was connected.  I had really intended to review it much sooner than this, but with my new job I just never had the chance.  The three stories intertwine in such a way that each is dependent on the others while still remaining complete in it’s own.  I read through it quickly, because I was so curious to learn how they all fit together while being so different.  Despite each story taking place in wildly different times and settings, they all felt authentic, both in language and characterization.

Characters:

Each story has one particular main character.  The first one we meet is Kere, a young girl with a strange gift in a very ancient land.  I immediately sympathized with Kere.  Her story is a difficult one and she’s a very likeable character, even when she is making mistakes.  I spent most of the book worried for her, though.  She faces many challenges and dangers, romantically, religiously, and personally.

The focus of the second story is Sam.  It focuses on his love story (both with a woman and with art), but we still see glimpses of him through the years, well into his old age.  Sam is so interesting I almost wish there was a book entirely about him.  Though his story appears to end with this book, I’m hoping he’ll show up again later in the series.

The third story focuses on Jake Morgan, a professor, and his relationship with his wife and his grad assistant.  It took me awhile to warm up to Jake.  He’s a jerk to his wife, a jerk to his assistant, and he doesn’t realize what huge mistakes these are until it’s too late.  His story is the least complete, however, which gives him opportunity to grow in future books.

Setting:

Weaver is great at subtle descriptions.  He gives such a clear picture of each setting for each story, but he manages to do it without resorting to large blocks of descriptive text.  Instead he weaves the description into the action so that they compliment each other.  The reader is able to really see the Persephone or the seaside of Anatolia.

Writing Style:

Weaver manages a consistent style throughout the book, while still giving each character his or her own voice.  Kere sounds just as much like a confused teen girl as Jake does a modern man.  His writing can also be flowery, such as when the Goddesses appear or stark when Jake has an internal debate.  He’s a chameleon when writing, but it’s still obvious that one writer is constructing the story.  It’s a great trick for the structure of the books.

Extras:

The appearances by the Goddesses are really intriguing.  I really hope the rest of the series reveals their story more.

Favorite Line:

Rage cooled with time.  Love faded, or was strangled, or became a memory that stretched icy hands through time and kept him awake in the hours when the moon would otherwise cradle the sleeping in it’s night.  Grief, though…grief lived on, pulsing madly through veins and gouging numb hollows in chests with a sad rage all it’s own.

Read This If You Like:

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

The Many Lives of Avery Snow by Christy Sloat

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review. I did not receive any compensation for this review. All opinions here are my own.

Find M. L. Weaver online: Goodreads // Amazon // Website

Book Review: Hunter by Chris Allen

Hunter Review at Quintessentially Bookish

Release Date: December 1st 2012
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Momentum
Series: Intrepid (#2)
Pages: 383

Hunter

From the book jacket:

His orders are simple: ‘The safety catch is off. Return that girl to her family and drag those bastards back to justice. Dead or alive. It makes no difference to me.’

Alex Morgan – policeman, soldier and spy for Intrepid, the black ops division of Interpol – is on the hunt for Serbian war criminals. But these guys were never going to let it be that simple. An assassination attempt is made on the presiding judge of the international tribunal. Days later, the judge’s daughter, the famous and beautiful classical pianist Charlotte Rose, vanishes in mysterious circumstances.

The girl is not just a pretty face and the daughter of a judge, however. She’s also the goddaughter of Intrepid’s veteran commander, General Davenport. It’s up to Morgan and the Intrepid team to track the kidnappers and the missing woman before the very fabric of international justice is picked apart at its fraying edges.

Part James Bond and part Jason Bourne, Alex Morgan must walk the line between doing the right thing and getting the job done. And this time he’s got permission to make it personal.

Plot:

Alex Morgan is the type of agent that is called on to complete missions that the regular force can’t.  Serbian war criminals turned gangster have started targeting the families of judges in an attempt to avoid prosecution.  Morgan must track down and stop the Serbians, in order to save the judge’s daughter and ensure the criminals are brought to justice.

Overall Thoughts:

I didn’t love this book, though I couldn’t really tell you exactly why.  There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it; it just ended up not being my kind of book.  I like a good thriller as much as the next person, but for some reason this one just couldn’t hold my interest.  However, those who consider action thrillers a favorite genre will probably like this book.  There are some great features to it.  It has some interesting characters, the plot is complicated, and there is plenty of action.

Characters:

The character of Alex Morgan is where Allen’s military knowledge really shines.  Morgan is tough and unafraid to kill if needed, but he isn’t just a gun toting cowboy of a character.   Unlike many other characters in this genre, he’s an intelligent strategist who completes his mission within the parameters of the law and the organization he works for.

Setting:

Using the Serbian conflict and the resulting fallout as the setting for this book was a good choice.  It provided the story with a sense of realism and an already tense and brutal backdrop.  The story jumps from location to location, however, which contributes to an intricate plot and fast pace.

Writing Style:

Allen’s writing is very tight and precise, but still descriptive.  His actions scenes are particularly well-written; the reader is able to really see what is happening.  One of the more interesting stylistic choices is the sheer number and varying length of his chapters.  There are 100 chapters in this book that bounce from character to character and sequence to sequence.  The quick and ever-changing nature of these chapters helps amp up the tense action.

Extras:

The level of detail provided by Allen’s military past and his knowledge is what really makes this book.

Favorite Line:

Her history could be traced for millennia and, for those who elected to pay no heed to the centuries of bloodshed or even the discovery of the Neanderthal remains at Pair-non-Pair, it was a history written exclusively in commerce, culture, and the arts.

Read This If You Like:

National Security by Marc Cameron

Hidden Order: A Thriller by Brad Thor

The Innocent by David Baldacci

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review. I did not receive any compensation for this review. All opinions here are my own.

Find Chris Allen online: Goodreads // Amazon // Website

Book Review: Light by Michael Grant

Light Review at Quintessentially Bookish

Release Date: April 2nd 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Series: Gone (#6)
Pages: 411

The Lost One

From the book jacket:

It’s been over a year since all the adults disappeared. Gone.

In the time since every person over the age of fourteen disappeared from the town of Perdido Beach, California, countless battles have been fought: battles against hunger and lies and plague, and epic battles of good against evil. And now, the gaiaphage has been reborn as Diana’s malicious mutant daughter, Gaia. Gaia is endlessly hungry for destruction. She yearns to conquer her Nemesis, Little Pete, and then bend the entire world to her warped will. As long-standing enemies become allies, secrets are revealed and unexpected sacrifices are made. Will their attempts to save themselves and one another matter in the end, or will the kids of Perdido Beach perish in this final power struggle?

Plot:

There has been a string of cover blurbs that did a great job of outlining the plot in my reviews lately. This one is another.

Overall Thoughts:

I wrote about this book a few weeks ago in my Waiting on Wednesday post because I was excited to see how the series would be concluded. It so far had been one great, crazy ride and the finale did not disappoint. Grant is the type of writer who can take impossible situations and make them seem completely reasonable. Because of this, he was able to take the series into directions that would have seemed absurd in the hands of a less capable writer. This ability is continued in the final installment. Ending a series like this in a way that is satisfying, yet still respects the plot and character progression is tricky. I had no idea how he would pull it off, but he managed to wrap up every storyline completely.

Characters:

Whenever I read science fiction, I’m reminded of the quote from Jane Austen Book Club: “Science fiction books have people in them, but they’re not about the people.” Though this is certainly true of many in the genre, this series is just as much about the characters as the action. The characters are not a cypher for the audience or a tool to keep the action moving; rather the action is a way to guide the characters’ development. Told from many points of view, each character has his or her own complete story of growing up and dealing with life in the FAYZ. Not every story ends well, not every character makes the right choice, but each character’s motivations and thoughts and feelings are very clear.

Setting:

The setting is just as much a living character as the people are. With Grant’s descriptions, it’s so easy to picture the dome, the city, the mutants, and destruction. By choosing to set it in a coastal California town, he was also able to use the geological advantage of including a beach, desert, forest, and lake, all of which provide different locations appropriate for different occurrences in the plot. He created a world that was perfect for his story.

Writing Style:

Grant’s writing style is straightforward, but also very pretty at times. I had a difficult time choosing a favorite line because there were so many powerfully written sentences. He is able to write both action and internal and external dialogue with equal ability. I was also impressed with his ability to write from the perspective of characters of different genders, races, and sexual orientations with equal capability.

Extras:

Mutants, super powers, aliens, this book is filled with all kinds of crazy, awesome features.

Favorite Line:

There were heroes in the FAYZ…And there were villains. Most of us were a bit of both.

Read This If You Like:

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Book Review: Dark Pool by Helen Hanson

Dark Pool Review at Quintessentially Bookish

Release Date: November 3rd 2011
Publisher: Domino INK
Pages: 317

The Lost One

From the book jacket:

~ Forty Billion Reasons to Kill

By this time in her life, Maggie Fender expected to be on her way to law school. Instead she’s far from any degree, waiting tables to support her teenage half-brother and their ailing father. With early onset Alzheimer’s, her father’s lucid moments are few and unpredictable.

Her brother’s legal defense for felony hacking charges strained their finances to a snap. In spite of the conviction, he claims he was framed. But now that he’s on parole, he also claims their father is sending them messages.

Maggie’s tired of the struggle, but she’s everybody’s legal guardian. Slowing down will lead to disaster. She can hustle. Or face financial ruin.

This isn’t the life she envisioned.

In the news, disgraced hedge fund manager Patty O’Mara awaits trial for bilking investors out of forty billion dollars. The legendary dark pool wizard offered phenomenal profits until the SEC examined his books. Then they discovered O’Mara didn’t make any legitimate trades on the market.

O’Mara ran his hedge fund the way Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff ran theirs. It was all a fraud.

One wealthy investor rallies the troop of irate victims by hiring a noted private investigator to find the missing pot of gold. A Russian mobster, out thirty million in cash, prefers to search for the money alone and without witnesses. Their competing efforts sift the same set of facts.

So why are they interested in Maggie Fender’s incoherent father?

While SEC officials try to rebuild credibility for allowing the financial scandal to rage unchecked, the private investigator and the Russian mobster vie to answer a solitary question:

What happened to all that money?

Plot:

I really can’t write anything that would explain it better than the synopsis above.

Overall Thoughts:

It’s been a very long time since I’ve read a crime thriller and I really enjoyed this one.  The plot was complicated, but very well put together.  When it wrapped, there were no loose ends.  It was full of action, but the plotting and characters were also well-written.  I especially enjoyed that the mystery was so personal to the characters.  This wasn’t simply an FBI agent or detective solving a crime.  This was a story of characters for whom solving this mystery was vital to their lives and it really upped the stakes.

Characters:

There are so many different characters and alternating viewpoints in this story that it’s hard to really focus on one.  Maggie is the primary focus of the story, but there are many intertwining narratives.  Hanson did an excellent job of jumping from viewpoint to viewpoint while still maintaining each one’s separate characterization.  They each have their own story and their own voice.  It brings more of a depth to the mystery, especially since it is so involved.

Setting:

I didn’t find the setting to be a particularly large part of the story.  There were some nice descriptions of the beach, but the book could have easily taken place in any number of settings and still made sense.  I suppose the only real advantage to setting it in San Francisco bay area was the proximity to Silicon Valley.

Writing Style:

The one issue I really noticed with the writing was a fair number of typos.  There were times when things were spelled incorrectly (including one character’s name) or an extra word was added to or missing from a sentence.  It could have benefited from a look over by a good copy editor.  Aside from that, I found the style to really fit the subject matter.  It was straight-forward and quick to read.   The dialogue (often a pet peeve of mine) was really well done and sounded natural.

Extras:

Computer hacking was a big part of this mystery and it was done in such a neat way.

I also loved the mentions of the Fender’s beagles, since I am a beagle owner myself.

Favorite Line:

My time is my time and now it’s closing.

Read This If You Like:

The Blue Nowhere by Jeffery Deaver

The Rope by Nevada Barr

Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart

 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review. I did not receive any compensation for this review. All opinions here are my own.

Find Helen Hanson online: Goodreads // Amazon // Website