Monday, December 11, 2017

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger book coverThe Little Stranger opens just after World War II, when only three members of the Ayers family—mother, son, and daughter—remain at Hundreds Hall, the family estate in England’s West Midlands. It was once a grand and stately manor, but it has fallen into disrepair as its inhabitants have suffered personal tragedy and financial ruin. The family calls in Doctor Faraday when one of their two remaining servants falls ill. Faraday, the son of a former Hundreds Hall nurserymaid, has fond memories of the estate from his boyhood and is shocked to see it in its present state. He finds the servant perfectly healthy but terrified of a “bad thing” in the house. Faraday, ever the rationalist, diagnoses her with a case of homesickness. However, he finds himself drawn in by the Ayers family, particularly the gruff-but-charming daughter, Caroline. As he spends more time with Caroline, he learns of strange, unsettling events that seem to be plaguing the inhabitants of Hundreds Hall. Can they be explained rationally, or is there something more sinister afoot?

Waters delivers an atmospheric, spine-tingling read that will hook you from the very first page. An absolute must-read for fans of Daphne du Maurier, Henry James, Agatha Christie or Charles Dickens. Read it before the movie comes out in 2018!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants book coverAs a young girl, Rose Franklin stumbled upon the remnants of a gigantic metal hand. It was the first of many scattered pieces of a colossal robot, all thousands of years old, to be discovered across the globe. Seventeen years later, the mystery remains unsolved, yet Rose, now a highly trained physicist, is leading the top secret team to find the missing pieces and crack the code. The story unfolds as she and her colleagues are interviewed by a nameless interrogator, who is just as mysterious as the robot.

Told in a series of interviews, journal entries, and reports, Sleeping Giants is impossible to put down once you begin. Luckily, there's a sequel, Waking Gods, out now, and a third book is expected to come out in the spring. Fans of realistic near-future sci-fi like The Martian or World War Z will love this. Highly recommended on audio, which is a full-cast production.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cinder book cover Imagine Cinderella as a cyborg spaceship mechanic. Imagine Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf being a genetically engineered super soldier. Imagine Rapunzel stranded alone on an orbiting satellite instead of a tower. Now imagine all of them, plus some tag-alongs, going on a four-book mission to save Earth from a deadly plague, stop the moon’s army from invading earth, reunite lost loves, and set the rightful queen on the Lunar throne. This series is the concept of fun distilled down into words and pages. Each character has a unique motivation-- from Scarlet, the tough-as-nails French farmgirl who just wants to go home, to Iko, the effervescent robot who dreams of being human. The plot is full of adventure and friendship and spaceships and romance and fairy tale cameos and derring-do.

As a cyberpunk fairy tale reimagining, it’s unusual, but excellent. It borrows from the source material without overusing it or getting bogged down by it. There are very silly moments and very tense moments, with lots of heart in between. And if you like audiobooks, the narrator for this series will absolutely knock your socks (or your cyborg foot) off.

The books in order are Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. If you finish the series and want more, Meyer also wrote a short story collection called Stars Above, a novella called Fairest, and a graphic novel follow-up called Wires and Nerve, all set in the same universe.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon book cover
Minli and her family live in a poor village. The burden of being without weighs heavily on them, especially on Minli's mother. From time to time, she laments at their poor circumstances. One day, inspired by her father’s stories, Minli decides to journey to Never Ending Mountain to see the Old Man of the Moon to ask him how she and her family can change their fortunes. Without telling her parents, Minli sets out on her journey. Along the way, she meets a dragon, seeks guidance from a king with the help of a boy and his buffalo, comes face to face with a poisonous Green Tiger, and much more.

Filled with interesting twists and turns, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is an enjoyable juvenile fantasy story. While there is an overriding storyline of Minli’s journey, the novel often pauses to tell other tales to explain various characters and events. However, rather than distract from the main story, these tangential stories add depth and understanding to Minli’s journey and the world she lives in. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Security by Gina Wohlsdorf

Manderley Resort is like nothing else. Rising from the California coast like a giant’s tooth, it is destined to be an opulent getaway for the super-rich. It is beautiful almost to a fault (who ever heard of white carpet in a hotel?), right down to the last rose in the hedge maze. It also takes security to new heights, with owner and developer Charles Destin, Jr. calling it “the most secure hotel ever built.” With the grand opening gala just weeks away, security is the last thing on type-A manager Tessa’s mind. Her to-do list is a mile long, her boss is a perfectionist, and she is much more concerned with things like getting the phones working, having the maid get that little blood spot out of the carpet, and finding time to deal with the mysterious man from her past who has just shown up out of the blue. What Tessa doesn’t realize is that her staff is being slaughtered one by one by a pair of masked killers. But why are they targeting the hotel staff? What do they want? Can Tessa make it out alive?

The reader gets a security camera view of the action because after all, at Manderley, someone is always watching. This inventive, darkly funny novel has plenty of self-aware nods to the slasher movie genre throughout and is sure to delight movie buffs and horror readers alike.   

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What If? by Randall Munroe

What If? book coverRandall Munroe is the author and artist behind the wildly popular physics-themed stick-figure webcomic xkcd. Because of the scientific tilt of his comics, he fields a lot of questions from fans, especially questions that start with "What if--?" This book answers some of the funniest, weirdest, and most popular questions he's gotten over the years.

If you've ever wondered how fast you could hit a speed bump and survive, or what would happen if you switched off the sun, or if you could dissipate a hurricane using nuclear weapons, or even how many giraffes high a person could throw a baseball, then this book will answer all your questions and more. Munroe is beyond hilarious, and his little illustrations (and rejected questions) make the whole book that much more entertaining. The explanations are all scientifically accurate, but more importantly, they're laugh-out-loud funny. For the true nerds out there, or any lovers of humor and science, this is a book to check out ASAP.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hush by Jeph Loeb

Batman: Hush book cover It’s just another night for Batman, leaping across Gotham rooftops, rescuing a hostage from Killer Croc, when someone intercepts the ransom money and cuts the line to his grappling hook, leaving him for dead in Crime Alley. In trying to uncover the culprit, he finds himself tangled in a web with all his greatest enemies: Poison Ivy, Clayface, Joker, Riddler, Scarecrow, Ra’s al Ghul, and others. They all talk as though it’s a game, but innocent lives are on the line, including some of Bruce Wayne's oldest friends. Working closely (very closely, hint hint) with Catwoman, the Dark Knight fights to uncover who is at the root of this tangle of crimes, mind control, disguise, and deception.

This is a great Batman comic for new readers and old fans alike. It has cameos from almost every Batman enemy and ally you could think of, along with plenty of little explanations of the continuity (Like what happened to the original Robin, or why Barbara Gordon is Oracle). There’s action on nearly every page, and you get to see Batman in his detective mode as well as his “punching Joker in the face” mode. If you like the Batman shows and movies, especially the darker, grittier Batman, Hush is a great introduction to his comic book incarnation. If you like your Batman even darker, try The Killing Joke as well. For a lighter read, try Batman Adventures.