“The Strain” by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain, the first book in its trilogy, is so many things. It’s a story about revenge, loss, the strive to survive, chaos and the destruction of society, fighting against evil. It’s a story about individuals driven by greed, anger, love. It’s a science fiction novel, both a novel steeped in science and fairytale. It’s dystopian. It’s a nightmare.

Quick summary:

On September 24, 2010, a flight from Berlin lands at New York’s JFK Airport, but no one disembarks and the pilots do not contact the control tower. It’s as if the plane is dead. When personnel from the CDC rapid-response team, doctors Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather and Nora Martinez, enter the plane, they find everyone dead, but no sign of how they died. However, there is a sinister feeling in the air, a tingle of fear, and as they unload the plane, they find a huge, ornately carved coffin in the cargo hold. This occurs at the cusp of a total solar eclipse with the city on edge waiting for something to happen.

Only one man in New York City truly knows what is about to happen because he has experienced it before — Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian. He tries to warn Eph and Nora, but no one believes him until it’s too late, until the eclipse starts and the bodies from the plane start to disappear and there are increasing reports of people attacking each other.

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“Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice” by Colum McCann

I told myself I wouldn’t buy another book about writing until I actually started to write. I don’t know what it is, if it’s fear or laziness, but I keep preventing myself from writing what I want to write. I’ll sit down with the intention to jot down the story in my head, but I either run away from the empty page, or write a few pages worth of stuff, get anxious, and run away. I don’t know what my problem is.

When I saw McCann’s Letters to a Young Writer in the bookstore, I couldn’t walk away from it. I was pulled toward it. I picked it up. I skipped the intro and read the first essay, I held it away from myself wondering if I should buy it, I walked around the store with it in hand, I paid and left with it. The title harkens to Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, which I read off and on one summer in New York, and that made McCann’s book seem promising. He will surely get me writing, I thought.

But McCann is frank about what he can’t do for us and what we can do for ourselves. He mentions in his introduction a statement he includes on his syllabus at Hunter College of the City University of New York, where he teaches in the MFA program — that he can’t teach his students anything. He can’t teach us how to write (or make us write), but he can guide us and allow us to do what we most want to do. And in this book, he is sincere, though frank, as he advises us on writing.

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“Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah

It’s been such a long time since I’ve done a book review that I feel as if I’ve forgotten how to write one.

“Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality.”

I picked up Born a Crime in March and read it sporadically until I got hooked and completed it in a few days last month. I don’t often read celebrity bios, but this one caught my attention because there was a lot of buzz about it and it was featured in the New York Times Books section. Plus, Trevor Noah is cute. His winking dimples compelled me to read his book.

Noah is a comedian and the host of the Daily Show, a satirical news talk show that airs on Comedy Central. I hardly watch the show and haven’t seen it since Noah took over from its previous host Jon Stewart, but I’ve heard it’s great. Prior to the Daily Show, I did not know of Trevor Noah. The few times I’ve heard him speak, I assumed he was British. I never would have guessed that he’s from South Africa, which I learned by reading reviews of Born a Crime.

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“The Impossible Fortress” by Jason Rekulak

This isn’t the cover of the book. It’s the cover of the ARC I received, which is way more awesome than the book’s cover.

I was surprised that I enjoyed this one.

Goodreads summary:

A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it. (Goodreads)

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“The Curse of Chalion” by Lois McMaster Bujold

I’ve often heard of Lois McMaster Bujold, but have never been tempted to pick up one of her books until I read Jonathan’s review of the Curse of Chalion.

I’m immediately drawn to fantasy novels in which religion factors greatly. It’s not something I often see in the fantasy novels I read. Often, religion is a slight thing in the society and not a major part of the world building. It certainly doesn’t often affect magic, unless it is to denounce the use of magic. However, in the Curse of Chalion, magic is greatly influenced by religion and the gods.

Side note:

I really enjoyed this book and it’s now one of my favorites, which means I went overboard with this reflection piece. It’s long ass fuck. Skip to the Overall section and read some of the quotes for a quickie.

Quick summary:

The Curse of Chalion is a high fantasy novel told using a limited third-person narrator from the perspective of our protagonist, Lupe dy Cazaril, a former soldier and courtier who returns home to the provincar of Baocia (basically a dukedom) mentally and physically scarred after his serving aboard a Roknari slave galley. Roknar is a country to the north of Chalion.

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“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

gone-girlThe movie for Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl was released in 2014. Everyone was reading it and/or talking about it back then, and my cousin, who had read the book, told me it was great. But I avoided it. Too much hype. Plus, I wasn’t interested in mystery novels. I have no patience for them.

Now it’s 2017. After watching the last half of the Gone Girl movie, I was so intrigued that I immediately downloaded the e-book from my library and was hooked on the story from its first sentence.

Though I knew how the story would end, I was still engrossed in it and curious to see how the events would unfold.

Goodreads summary:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears.

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“Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed

tiny-beautiful-thingsI’ve been interested in reading one of Strayed’s books, namely Wild, since I first listened to a podcast episode featuring her on Longreads. The episode was inspiring and I thought her memoir would be also.

Though I bought Wild last year, I have yet to crack it open. However, at the start of this year, I decided to download Tiny Beautiful Things on my library’s Overdrive because it was available; but the electronic format made me sleepy.

I borrowed the book from the library and was so taken by it, that I found myself placing dots on almost every page (it’s my way of highlighting library books without being intrusive). Eventually, I decided to just get my own copy so I can highlight every damn thing.

Quick summary:

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.

Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way. (Goodreads)

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