Monday, January 14, 2019

Ironfoot by Dave Duncan

Ironfoot book cover (an old wooden tabletop strewn with spellbooks and spell components) Ironfoot is the first book in the Enchanter General series by Dave Duncan. It takes place in 12th century Norman-ruled England, an especially bad time to be a a poor, crippled, Saxon youth. But such is the lot of our hero, Durwin, nicknamed Ironfoot for the metal boot he wears to support an injured leg. By chance, his cleverness and competency with horses earns him a place as a student at a university which teaches the art of magic along with the sciences. When catastrophe befalls a professor’s noble family, Durwin is called upon to accompany him home. While at the castle, he uncovers a string of murders and the burden of solving them falls upon his shoulders. He needs all his wits, luck with his spellwork, and the aid of the school bully to solve them.

This book would appeal to those who enjoy historical mysteries as well as fantasy readers. The setting is quite historically detailed, with just a little bit of magic thrown in. It should be interesting to follow Durwin’s career from lower-class stable-boy to Enchanter General as the series continues. The next book, Trial by Treason just came out in October 2018.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Vox book cover (a woman's face with an X over her mouth, on a blank background) This is a book reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale. It is the story of a near-future America in which women and girls are given just 100 words to speak per day. They receive a jolt of electricity through a metal counter (i.e. bracelet) for every word they speak after 100. Women have been sent back in time to where they are the homemakers, cooking dinner for their husbands and tending to household needs while the men work "real" jobs. Books are thrown out or locked up with the only key on the husband’s keychain; men are in charge of everything from finances to medical decisions; women aren't allowed to write or even gesture with their hands to communicate. Adulterers (women only, because "boys will be boys…") and homosexuals are taken to labor camps in the Midwest. The country, in short, is run by morally "Pure" men.

Though Dalcher’s writing took some time to get used to (she is a little more candid than I am used to), by the midway point, I was totally sucked into the story. It's a semi-believable plot with just enough sexist garbage to really fire me up! Dalcher really knows what to say to frustrate the heck out of women reading this, but in the best possible way! It had me wanting to march in the streets and burn down the patriarchy.

To conclude, I ended up enjoying this book. It's a solid debut and I recommend it to those who like Atwood or other dystopian works of fiction.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

One Day in December by Josie Silver

One Day in December book cover (a woman boarding a double-decker bus while a man watches from a nearby streetlight, with snow falling) On a snowy December night in London, Laurie James looks out the window of her bus and sees him-- the man she's convinced, in that split second, is the one. Their eyes meet, he makes a move in her direction... and then the bus drives away. Laurie becomes obsessed, spending months scanning every face at every bus stop and every cafe in the hopes that it's him. But it never is.

That is, until her best friend and roommate, Sarah, introduces him to Laurie at a Christmas party a year later as Jack, the man of Sarah's dreams.

One Day in December is a tense but moving romance spanning almost a decade as Laurie and Jack try to navigate life with each other... but not with each other. Theirs is not the only love story, though. The relationship between Laurie and Sarah is just as, if not more, important than whatever Laurie and Jack may or may not have. It's why Laurie keeps Jack's identity as "bus boy" a secret, so as not to break Sarah's heart. And it's why the ultimate climax of the book takes on an even deeper meaning-- Laurie and Sarah's relationship has to be solid before any relationship between Laurie and Jack can begin.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History by Chris Smith

The Daily Show (The Book) book coverFor almost seventeen years, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart brilliantly redefined the borders between television comedy, political satire, and opinionated news coverage. It launched the careers of some of today's most significant comedians, highlighted the hypocrisies of the powerful, and along the way managed to earn 23 Emmys. Now you can see behind the scenes on one of the most influential television shows of the modern era. Correspondents, guests, and staff all tell the story of The Daily Show from its humble beginnings, through incisive election coverage, Jon Stewart's emotional monologue in the wake of 9/11, his infamous confrontation on Crossfire, passionate debates with President Obama, feuds with Bill O'Reilly, Indecisions and more. Highly recommended for fans of the show.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Ruins by Scott Smith

The Ruins book coverThe Ruins follows a group of young, carefree students vacationing on the beaches of Mexico. On a lark, they embark on an day’s adventure into the jungle to find a friend’s brother and see some ancient ruins. However, the journey is much longer than expected, their supplies are inadequate, the villagers are not friendly, and the abandoned ruins harbor a danger they never could have imagined. Far too late, they realize their folly. A mysterious enemy inhabiting the ruins taunts them, pitting them against each other and making them question their sanity, before its ultimate attempt to consume them.

This novel is fast-paced and gripping. While reading it, I was eager to continue for just a few more pages, hoping to discover a bit more about the enigmatic threat and watch aghast at what befalls the group as they struggle to escape the ruins. If you don’t mind some grisly details, are entertained by unexpected “monsters” and relish escalating tension in your horror, then The Ruins is worth checking out.

A movie adaptation of The Ruins was made in 2008.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

The House Next Door book cover (a house with lit windows obscured by shadowy trees at night) Colquitt and Walter Kennedy are horrified when construction starts on the wooded vacant lot next door to their suburban Atlanta home. They worry that their routine of dinner parties and drinks on the patio will be disturbed, and that the ultra-modern home going up will ruin the character of their sleepy, traditional Southern neighborhood. However, when they meet the charming young couple who are moving in and their charismatic architect, they warm to the idea and even the new house.

Then a series of disturbing tragedies begin to visit the couple in the house next door until they move away, their relationship broken. The house goes up for sale, and troubled Anita and her husband move in. Anita begins to report bizarre incidents when she is home alone, but surely they are merely the product of her fragile emotional state? Colquitt and Walter watch again as their neighbor’s lives are ruined, and it begins to seem to them that something in the house is changing its inhabitants, bringing out the worst in them. Then a third couple moves in and terrible things happen to them, too. Rational Colquitt struggles to explain what is happening next door as madness and murder plague her once-peaceful neighborhood. What lengths will she and Walter go to to protect themselves and their home? Is there even a way to stop what’s happening?

This is the perfect haunted house story, and nothing like anything else you’ll read this Halloween.

Monday, October 15, 2018

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I Am Legend book coverI Am Legend is the story of Robert Neville, a man living among the vampires that took over the world. In this apocalyptic classic, Neville is the only man to endure the virus that has transformed everyone, including his own family, into night-dwelling, blood-sucking vampires. He has foraged for and stockpiled food and other necessities for survival, has rigged his home to withstand the army of vampires trying to get in after him, and has even had to burn his wife and daughter after they succumbed to the virus. When he sees human-looking Ruth, he forces her to come home with him, mostly out of loneliness, but also out of fear. Is she one of them, a vampire mutated to withstand the sunlight and water? Or is she someone that Neville can befriend?

This was a wonderful character-driven story that was creepy and enthralling. I hated to put the book down, but loved to pick it back up. It is a quick read that is sure to put you in the mood for Fall and Halloween! Highly recommended for the season.