The Wave (Susan Casey)

rating_4
7997104

For centuries, mariners have spun tales of gargantuan waves, 100-feet high or taller. Until recently scientists dismissed these stories — waves that high would seem to violate the laws of physics. But in the past few decades, as a startling number of ships vanished and new evidence has emerged, oceanographers realized something scary was brewing in the planet’s waters. They found their proof in February 2000, when a British research vessel was trapped in a vortex of impossibly mammoth waves in the North Sea — including several that approached 100 feet.

As scientists scramble to understand this phenomenon, others view the giant waves as the ultimate challenge. These are extreme surfers who fly around the world trying to ride the ocean’s most destructive monsters. The pioneer of extreme surfing is the legendary Laird Hamilton, who, with a group of friends in Hawaii, figured out how to board suicidally large waves of 70 and 80 feet. Casey follows this unique tribe of people as they seek to conquer the holy grail of their sport, a 100-foot wave.

In this mesmerizing account, the exploits of Hamilton and his fellow surfers are juxtaposed against scientists’ urgent efforts to understand the destructive powers of waves — from the tsunami that wiped out 250,000 people in the Pacific in 2004 to the 1,740-foot-wave that recently leveled part of the Alaskan coast.

Like Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, The Wave brilliantly portrays human beings confronting nature at its most ferocious.

I vastly enjoy reading Casey’s earlier nonfiction work, The Devil’s Teeth, and I was thrilled to find The Wave offered up on the Goodreads Giveaway Program. I was even more thrilled to actually win an ARC, and I dove into reading it immediately.

I will admit that I love sharks more than water and that I was much more fascinated with the material presented in The Devil’s Teeth than in The Wave, which did lead to a tendency for me leave this book languishing on my bedside table for weeks at a time although I read it avidly enough when I was, you know, reading it. I find Casey’s writing style great for nonfiction material: direct, clear, engaging, and informative without being at all heavy-handed. It definitely is a work to spark your curiosity, but it’s probably not a work I’m likely to reread. (Which reminds me: Where did I put my copy of The Devil’s Teeth?)

The content of this book has so many similarities to the 2003 documentary, Step Into Liquid, that it should be required reading to anyone who enjoyed that film — or viewing the film should be mandatory to everyone who reads this book.

Recommended to anyone with an interest in the ocean, even if you dwell in a landlocked state and your only experience with waves comes from watching Discovery’s The Deadliest Catch.

Originally posted at:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/110113249

Posted March 2011, moved October 2013
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it isn’t the sparkle
or the roar—
it’s the stillness

Also posted at:
http://www.librarything.com/work/10012975/reviews/84115277

Posted March 2011, moved October 2013
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Zombie Island (Lori Handelan)

rating_3
13004927

Fresh from a triumphant battle over the zombie horde that invaded London, vampire William Shakespeare concocts a plot to rid the love of his life from the encumbrance of her husband. Will plans to give his ”dark lady,” Katherine Dymond, a potion that will make her sleep the sleep of the dead. Once she is entombed, Will can sneak in, wait for her to awaken, then spirit her away. After her husband returns to his plantation in America, Kate can return to London under a different name and assume a new identity. No one will believe that the dead Katherine and the live Kate are the same woman. Of course, as is often the case with true love, all does not go as smoothly as planned. When the two of them are shipwrecked on an island ruled by a wizard and a nymph, as well as infested by zombies, Will and Kate must stop an even larger plot afoot—one that leads all the way to the royal palaces of Queen Elizabeth.

A monster mashup in the tradition of the now-classic Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the world of the Shakespeare Undead series has the immortal bard being, well, an immortal vampire passionately in love with the “Dark Lady” of his sonnets, the zombie hunter Katherine. The first book in this series apparently had Will and Kate meeting, defending Queen Elizabeth from a London overrun by zombies, and extracting Kate from her unwanted spouse. This second book opens with Kate faking her death à la Romeo and Juliet, only instead of waking up in a crypt with her beloved Will at her side, she finds herself washing up on a tropical island. Prospero’s tropical island. Swarming with his zombie army.

This book was fluffy fun, but it was fun. I did roll my eyes at the rawr sexay vampire times and, perhaps, snorted indelicately at Will’s moments of being moved by his muse to voice what will eventually become lines of future works of his (Casablanca, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), but I genuinely enjoyed how Handeland basically upended a box full of bits of pop culture and rearranged the scattered results at her whim. While it’s true the book has all the literary merit of a bag of potato chips, I really want to continue reading this series. Three stars. Perfect for summer beach reading as you daydream about zombies attacking you while you’re there. Perfect for English Majors who need a bit of a break.

An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher through the Goodreads Giveaway Program. I have not read the first book in this series.

Originally posted at:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/272785638

Posted March 2012, moved October 2013
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the barren shore
the distant storm—
also a zombie army

Also posted at:
http://www.librarything.com/work/12013949/reviews/84113680

Posted March 2012, moved October 2013
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The Left Hand of God (Paul Hoffman)

rating_3
7818890

Sixteen-year-old Thomas Cale has grown up imprisoned at the Sanctuary of the Redeemers, a fortress run by a secretive sect of warrior monks in a distant, dystopian past. He is one of thousands of boys who train all day in hand-to-hand combat, in preparation for a holy war that only the High Priests know is now imminent. He has no reason to think he’s special, no idea there’s another world outside the compound’s walls, and no hope for a life any different from the one he already knows.

And then, Cale opens a door.

What follows is a daring escape, an unlikely alliance, a desperate pursuit, a journey of incredible discovery, and an adventure the likes of which Cale could never possibly have imagined, culminating in Cale’s astonishing realization that he alone has the power to save his world… or to destroy it.

I snagged an ARC of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway Program. I was notified of winning the day the giveaway ended, and my copy arrived in the mail a mere four days latter. Penguin Group shipping FTW!

I tend to be leery of books with heavy religious content (and with its brewing war between holy fractions, Left Hand of God assuredly qualifies as one), but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this. It has a very YA feel with dark underpinnings. I’ve heard it described as a ‘dark Harry Potter’ and I’d agree with that description, although I feel Left Hand is more simplistic in structure and I’m not sure if it has as good a grounded start from which to expand. I’d be interested in seeing how the rest of the books in this projected trilogy develop; though I can’t say I’m in a burning rush to go out and get them.

I felt a little removed from the story the whole time I was reading it. Everything felt passive to me, for all the adventures the characters were getting into. It was rather like the difference between sitting down and being told a tale and being off on an adventure of your own, you know? Or like idly wondering how the characters will get out of some conflict versus feverishly worrying how the hell the characters were possibly going to get through the conflict alive. But while the plotline didn’t thrill me and I didn’t particularly care for the world Hoffman has built, the characters that peopled this world were pretty fascinating. Yay, sociopathic protragonists! Or at least, yay, the male ones! Frankly Hoffman’s female characters could have done with quite a bit of fleshing out. Eh. Maybe that will happen in the next book.

Despite the rather lackluster praise I’ve written above, I did like this book. I just didn’t love it. I have no intention of rereading it, and I’ve happily given away my ARC. I’d give this three, maybe three and half, stars.

Originally posted at:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/106429331

Posted June 2010, moved October 2013
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holy war depends
on children
yet again

Also posted at:
http://www.librarything.com/work/8923258/reviews/61368252

Posted June 2010, moved October 2013
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The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers (Thomas Mullen)

rating_2
6589672

Follow the Depression-era adventures of Jason and Whit Fireson, bank robbers known as the Firefly Brothers by the press, the authorities, and an adoring public that worships their acts as heroic counterpunches thrown at a broken system.

Now it appears they have at last met their end in a hail of bullets. Jason and Whit’s lovers — Darcy, a wealthy socialite, and Veronica, a hardened survivor — struggle between grief and an unyielding belief that the Firesons have survived. While they and the Firesons’ stunned mother and straight-arrow third son wade through conflicting police reports and press accounts, wild rumors spread that the bandits are still at large. Through it all, the Firefly Brothers remain as charismatic, unflappable, and as mythical as the American Dream itself, racing to find the women they love and make sense of a world in which all has come unmoored.

Complete with kidnappings and gangsters, heiresses and speakeasies, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers is an imaginative and spirited saga about what happens when you are hopelessly outgunned—and a masterly tale of hardship, redemption, and love that transcends death.

This was the first book I snagged through the Goodreads Giveaway Program (and yaaaay! for that), but, well, it never actually arrived in the mail. I borrowed a copy from my library to read and review instead and, now that I’ve read it, I’m kinda glad I went that route. This isn’t a book I need to own.

It was very, very neat to read a novel set in Great Depression. I know nearly nothing of that time period, and I found it incredible to read about. I wound up with a very strong urge to phone up my grandparents after I completed this; some of their earliest memories are set during this time.

I wasn’t, however, overly impressed with the plotline of the book, and the characters never pulled me into their story. The aspect of Firefy brothers dying over and over again was an interesting idea, and yeah, eventually the book explains the hows and whys the brothers died that crucial first time, but the book never explained why the brothers kept coming back to life and that really bothered me. And this returning-to-life twist doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose outside the direct plot of the story — it’s not like the brothers were learning much or growing at all along the way.

This was only a meh shading to an okay read.

ETA (Late) July 2010: Book arrived!

Originally posted at:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/80172751

Posted March 2010, moved October 2013
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it takes a very rare work
to make this subject
boring

Also posted at:

http://www.librarything.com/work/9255789/reviews/58288069

Posted March 2010, moved October 2013
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Fifty Shades of Brains (B.F. Dealeo)

rating_4
cover.indd

“Maybe it’s my mood or the early morning hour, but I suddenly feel like narrating a brief history of the zombie apocalypse and how it’s impacted our city the last seven years.” [pp. 9-10]

Dealeo, a name for the writing pair that includes Gene Ambaum, was a name with a plan. A good plan. A plan that seems grounded in a solid belief that absolutely anything can be improved with zombies.

“That’s why I came,” he says. “To protect you. There’s something about you, Aurora. Something completely irritating, yet irresistible, likely a badly written BDSM novel. I’m finding it impossible to stay away.” [pp. 42-43]

More thought has gone into this work than any of the novels that inspired it, combined.

“So what you’re saying is… you’ve never killed a zombie before?” he whispers.

I bite my lip and shake my head. I can’t meet his eyes. “Never.” I whisper back.

“Oh dear god, you’re a virgin!” [p. 64]

They’ve actually given this story a plot, a real plot. There are character actions that make sense. And a heroine that does stuff.

“Fuck the flowers,” I say. “I want that motorcycle you mentioned. And another gun, something larger, like a shotgun maybe. And lots of ammunition. Also I want my own albino. Maybe two.” [p. 120]

And I admit I laughed aloud at this:

“Refer to who?” I ask.

It’s whom, my inner grammarian pipes up. [p. 136]

And I outright cheered at the ending:

I hit him once for Hoser and once for Pen and once for my poor addled mother. I hit him a dozen times for all the students who died trying to hunt and kill those wretched creatures. I hit him for Mr. Austin back at my old school and for the crazy guy in the elevator with the blow-up sex dolls. I hit him for our cock-eyed Space Needle and the sunken ferries out in the Puget Sound and our once-beautiful city that’s now a decimated wasteland. I hit him for all the times we’ve flirted and fought and fucked and futzed with that stupid contract which didn’t do squat to save the city like he promised. And then I hit him one more time because his own insanity brought him to this sad, pathetic end.

Pieces of his skull are everywhere by the time I stop pounding.

I’ve ruined his hair forever.

Tough titty, growls my inner girl with the dragon tattoo. [pp. 150-160]

What can I say? It’s a parody of a novel that was actively terrible, that itself had been based on a novel of utterly no redeeming value. It’s practically unreadable, but then it’s designed be, soooo… this is clearly a win.

Disclaimer:
This is a work of fiction and a parody.
It’s a product of sick minds and not based
on any real people or incidents.
We hope it has no resemblance to any
Actual persons, living or dead.
Because have you read this? Yuck. [p. 3]

Great fun. Better than Häagen-Dazs. Recommended for anyone who’s ever disliked the works by E.L. James or Stephanie Meyer. Four stars.

An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher through the Librarything Member Giveaway Program. Quotes pulled from ISBN 9781937914035.

Related review:
Fifty Shades of Grey

Originally posted at:
http://www.librarything.com/review/95298622

Posted July 2013, moved October 2013
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Also posted at:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/571575643

Posted July 2013, moved October 2013
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to certain death
I preferably resign
via zombie kittens

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Fifty Shades of Grey (E.L. James)

translucent
10818853

Best review detailing the quality of writing:
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/340987215

Best review detailing the BDSM and feminism:
http://zephyrscribe.tumblr.com/post/52727257364/fifty-things-wrong-with-fifty-shades-of-grey

Most horrific influence:
http://www.avclub.com/articles/fifty-shades-of-grey-now-also-ruining-classic-lite,82638/

Related review:
Fifty Shades of Brains
Twilight

Originally posted at:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/216293747

Posted March 2013, moved October 2013
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the taste of sweat
and maybe pain—
sadly, derived

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Twilight (Stephenie Meyer)

rating_1
762743

The books in the Twilight series have pretty covers.

This is the only positive thing I can say about them.

Related review:
The Host
Fifty Shades of Grey

Originally posted at:
http://www.librarything.com/review/38276837

Posted November 2008, moved October 2013
0 comments, 27 likes at time of move

Also posted at:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/38025372

Posted November 2008, moved October 2013
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fading blossoms
bitter vines—
no one ever sees the symbolism

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