Monday, March 12, 2018

Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy

Monkeewrench book cover Monkeewrench, led by the abrasive and paranoid Grace McBride, is a software company operated by an eclectic group of best friends with a suspiciously secretive past. Their newest program is a still-in-development training program for detectives and forensic specialists. It shows you a fictional crime scene, and you click around to investigate it. It's that simple. Until someone starts committing actual crimes based on their fake crime scenes. The game hasn't been released yet, so the police are looking at Monkeewrench as the only suspects. To clear their names, they'll have to work with the detectives to catch this criminal, before it's too late. Even if it means revealing the dark secrets of their past.

This is a fantastic mystery/thriller. The plot is good, but its writing style is what really shines. The descriptions are vivid, the dialogue is hilarious, and its tense moments are legitimately thrilling. Every character is put together with great care and personality, and their friendships are heartwarming. Because of this, it holds up well to re-reading, even if you know the ending. It takes place in Minnesota, which is a nice change of pace if you're tired of stories set in New York and California. The authors are a mother-daughter writing duo, and the Monkeewrench series currently has eight books in it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Origin by Dan Brown

Origin book cover Robert Langdon, a renowned professor of symbology, has been flown into Spain to witness what is being described as a "world-changing presentation." The presenter and host, Edmond Kirsch, is a billionaire futurist, who promises his audience that what they are about to see will forever change the way that we understand human existence. Unfortunately, as the presentation gets underway, an unexpected event happens, throwing the room into chaos. Suddenly, the presentation and the revelations held within it are at risk of being lost. Robert Langdon finds himself thrust into the position of fighting against those who wish to stop Edmond’s presentation from happening, and they will do whatever it takes to stop him.

Dan Brown is rightfully famous for his thrilling stories, and this is no exception. Each chapter is a cliffhanger begging the reader to keep on going until all is revealed. While Origin is the fifth book in the blockbusting Robert Langdon series, it’s not necessary to have read the previous ones to enjoy this story. If you want to read the series in order, the books are: Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, Inferno, and Origin. They have also been turned into a series of movies starring Tom Hanks.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine book cover Eleanor Oliphant is fine. At least, she knows that's what she's supposed to say if anyone asks. Socially acceptable behavior doesn't come naturally to her. She's been alone for almost as long as she can remember, but it's fine. People are all mean, irrational dullards who mock her behind her back anyway, so she doesn't need them. She works all day in accounts receivable, and then she goes home and chugs vodka until the voices in her head quiet down enough for her to pass out. That's been her life for years. And, if anyone asks, she's fine.

Then, one day, her life changes. She watches a musician perform at a work event, and it's love at first sight. She just has to make herself into wifely material first, and surely the second he meets her, he'll propose. Meanwhile, her office has a new IT guy, Raymond, and he's one of the least pleasant men Eleanor has ever met. He's overweight, with sloppy clothes and eating habits, and he walks weirdly. But for some reason he keeps talking to her. And for some reason... that's completely fine.

Will Eleanor marry the musician? Will she let Raymond be her friend? Will she finally let herself remember the horrors of her past? Find out in this veritable roller coaster of emotions. It's a surprisingly dark, sometimes funny, completely heartwarming read. I highly recommend the audiobook, because the reader is absolutely fantastic.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows book cover Kaz Brekker is a dangerous man. He's called “Dirtyhands” because no crime is too vicious or immoral for him, for the right price. One day he is approached with an offer he can’t refuse: gather an elite group of thieves and con artists, travel to the faraway Ice Court, and free one prisoner. It sounds straightforward enough, but no one has ever infiltrated the Ice Court, an impenetrable frozen fortress, and escaped with their lives. The prisoner they must free is the inventor of a substance that turns the Grisha-- people naturally capable of small, simple magics-- into crazed, all-powerful gods of destruction. If they succeed, they will be rich beyond their wildest fantasies. If they fail, they will die. But criminals like Kaz just love to gamble…

Six of Crows is a young adult fantasy heist book with a sizable cast of extremely fun characters, all with elaborate backstories and motivations. There’s Inej, the girl who can move like a shadow, and Matthias, a former Ice Court soldier who longs to return to his old life, as well as Nina, the Grisha who fought, fell in love with, and betrayed Matthias years ago. Their complex interactions make the book very engaging, and the plot really rolls along once it gets going. If a fantasy heist book sounds appealing to you, and you don’t mind keeping track of six characters at a time, it’s a great adventure. If you enjoy it, make sure to get the sequel, Crooked Kingdom. You might also want to check out Bardugo's Grisha trilogy, which takes place in the same world. If you're looking for a more adult fantasy heist book, try the Gentleman Bastard series as well.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown book coverIn Beartown, hockey is life. All hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the little town's revival lie in the upcoming semi-final match, which will hopefully lead to a final match and, ultimately, a win. In just a few more games, Beartown could be transformed. No longer would it be a declining, secluded, forgettable place. Instead, it would be reborn as a major hockey destination. Perhaps there would be a new ice arena, or new sponsors would swarm the city. As a reader, you root for the young men, seventeen year old boys, who could make this happen. They are so close to victory. Then, one day, something happens. An incident occurs. And this incident, even though it happens outside the hockey arena, turns out to be the real game changer.

While Beartown is a book about hockey, the reader does not need to be a hockey fan to appreciate the story. The first chapter piques curiosity right away. The characters are excellently fleshed out, and the story is very timely, especially with current events regarding harassment, rape, and the treatment of women. If A Man Called Ove made you into a Backman fan, then this is one you won't want to miss.

Monday, February 5, 2018

In His Hands by Adriana Anders

In His Hands book coverAbby has belonged to the Church of Apocalyptic Faith for so long she can barely remember her life before, except for living in a car with her mom and going hungry. However, her small community of faith is not as idyllic as it appears. Abby wants out, but leaving the Church isn't easy. If caught fleeing, she could be killed... or worse.

Luc, the grape grower next door, just wants to be left alone with his vines. He keeps to himself and in return has no problems with his strange neighbors. But when Abby lands on his doorstep, something in her eyes won't let him turn her away. And just like that, he's in the middle of a war with the Church during the worst snowstorm he's ever seen, all while falling for a woman he's just met.

This is the third book in the Blank Canvas series. Each story is a standalone, but there are some spoilers if you read them out of order. Adriana Anders's books are all in paperback only, but she isn't your average mass-market paperback writer. While her novels are definitely romances, they also touch on very deep, serious subject matters. In His Hands takes you inside an apocalyptic cult, bringing light to all its blessings and evils. Anders's writing style is engrossing, but it does use a vast vocabulary-- I had to look up a few words in the dictionary! I highly recommend this entire series, and I can't wait to read her other works!

Monday, January 29, 2018

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

From Here to Eternity book coverKnown for her web series, Ask a Mortician, Caitlin Doughty is a proponent of making funerals more natural and meaningful than the current impersonal, profit-driven model. In this, her second book, she explores funeral customs and death rituals of other cultures: visiting cemeteries, witnessing funerals, and attending celebrations of the dead the world over. She describes old-fashioned funeral pyres, cremation ceremonies involving chopsticks, and the reverent tending of mummified relatives. Many of these seemingly exotic rituals include close personal interactions with the deceased’s earthly remains; a stark contrast to the rather antiseptic practices promoted by the American funeral industry. Doughty laments that we have so distanced ourselves from death, that it is only viewed with fear and disgust, whereas other cultures continue to foster relationships with their loved ones, remembering them, honoring them, and including them in family life even after they have passed on.

If you like the readable nonfiction style of Mary Roach or have ever wondered why a burial can’t be a simpler, less expensive affair, this book will interest you. You may also wish to read Doughty’s first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, a memoir of her time working in a crematory.