Review: Divergent

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually read this one very quickly (before I had seen the movie, by the way) because it was a fun read and very engaging.

I won’t go into my normal specifics because I read this over a month ago, but I did enjoy it and I highly recommend it.

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The Loyal Lieutenant: Leading Out Lance and Pushing Through the Pain on the Rocky Road to Paris
The Loyal Lieutenant: Leading Out Lance and Pushing Through the Pain on the Rocky Road to Paris by George Hincapie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After finishing Lance Armstrong’s biography, my friend lent me this one to get another perspective on biking and doping and Lance. He warned me that I might feel “dirty” after reading this.

I don’t know that I necessarily felt dirty though. But that is probably because this was not written like a normal autobiography. There were pull-out quotes from other people about how awesome George was (which was a little strange, but acceptable). The worst thing is that it read like a travelog. There was rarely any emotion expressed or any indication of thoughts. It was just, “we went here and we did this, then we went there and did that.” It made for very dry reading. It also made it seem like George was trying to hide information, which is probably where the “dirty” feeling came from.

I hadn’t really thought about the roles played by a team’s support to the big name, so it was interesting to read a little bit about how that worked.

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Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

The Cuckoo's Calling
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a bookclub pick. I don’t know that I would have picked it up otherwise. Galbraith is the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, so perhaps I would have eventually.

It is a little hard to go into this without expecting another Harry Potter book (probably why she used a pseudonym), but I didn’t know anything about the book or the story before.

It was an interesting story and a fairly good first foray into mystery writing. There were a couple problems with style and plot that kept this from getting all 5 stars for me, but I still recommend it if you like mysteries and don’t mind A LOT of swearing.

The story is about the supposed suicide of a high-profile model. Her brother doesn’t believe it though, and hires a private detective, Cormoran Strike, to investigate it more fully.

Setting: The setting is basically present-day London. A lot of the story feels like it takes place in various bars (pubs) around the city. The author doesn’t really spend a lot of time on details of place – there is enough to know where you are and to keep things organized, but since I don’t know the city, I wasn’t sure what any of it meant. There are details given about the murder/suicide scene and surrounding area so as to help us learn what happened along with the PI, Cormoran Strike.

Characters: Cormoran Strike is a great character and we get to know lots about him. He is proud and fierce and insightful. He lost a leg in the war and wears a prosthesis, but he works hard at not letting anyone know. He was in a close relationship with a very beautiful lady but ends it at the start of the novel. He had a friendship with a family member of the model (he had also apparently committed suicide many years earlier), so that is part of the reason he is brought into this.

There is his temp secretary, Robin, who grows to like the job and the excitement more and more, straining her relationship with her fiance.

There are all the other characters and suspects who Strike interviews and gets information from. Some of them seem more like personas rather than real people, but there are some interesting ones here.

Plot: Lulu Landry, a popular model, seems to have jumped to her death. Her brother (she was adopted) is a member of a wealthy family and does not believe it was suicide. Strike takes the case and tries to track down the killer or to prove that it was suicide. There are some twists and turns with trying to get people to talk and with one person turning up dead. There are some other minor plot lines with Strike and his ex, and with Robin and her job and her fiance, but the main focus is on the case. This is where the book falls short a bit for me, though. Part of the fun of a mystery is figuring out (along with or shortly after the main character) who did it and why. But it remains fairly hidden until the very end. Part of this is because the author chooses to not tell us even though we are in the main character’s head. POV needs to be handled much better for a mystery for me to accept the artifice of uncovering “the truth” about something and treading the thin line between suspense and obvious.

Conflict: This is conflict here. Most of it revolves around getting people to share what they know and figuring out what it all means. Towards the end, the conflict is ramped up with the threat of death after someone close to Lulu ends up dead.

Text: It is easy to tell that Rowling has gotten so big that either she ignores her editors or they treat her with white kid gloves, because she is still using “said-isms” and way too many adverbs for a book that is not a YA novel. That said, the writing flows well and the interactions and dialogue are written well. There is a lot of swearing, which may turn off some readers.

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Review: Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong

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Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong
Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong by Juliet Macur

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A coworker who is also a biker lent this book to me.

I had heard of the whole doping scandal and I also assumed that it was a bit of a witchhunt because I bet everyone in the sport was doing it, so they should strip everyone of their medals.

What I didn’t know was how much of a mafia boss Armstrong was with the whole thing and what a bully and jerk he is in general.

Along with a lot of America, I was taken in by the whole cancer survivor who comes back to race thing.

This was an interesting and enlightening read, to say the least.

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Review: The Sweetest Hallelujah

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The Sweetest Hallelujah
The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t really like my bookclub’s last pick, so I was dreading reading this one.

However, I was hooked within the first couple of pages!

This is the story of a little black girl, Billie, whose single mother is dying from cancer (most people would say the story is about the mother, Betty Jewel, but the whole story revolves around Billie, so I see it a little differently). The year is 1955 and the place is the South; so racial tensions are very high.

Billie’s mother places an ad in the paper for someone to take care of Billie, and that is where the fun starts.

We get to know Cassie Malone, a stalwart and rich white widow, who sees the ad and goes to investigate (she is a sometime reporter for a local paper).

The story revolves around Billie, Betty Jewel, Cassie, and a host of friends and family and their love for each other and for Billie.

The writing was wonderfully clear and evocative of southern charm and manners. It was a heart-rending story, and the author did not shy away from the difficulties of that era in the South, which was brilliantly and lovingly handled.

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The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, with Winds and Accompaniment
The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, with Winds and Accompaniment by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up this book because it was recommended by the author as a good book to start with (I thought that I had not yet read anything by L.E.). I had forgotten that I had read another book of his before – Flash – which I had liked. I also have the Magic of Recluse books on my list of “to buy” books for the future some time. I’m interested to see where L.E. takes me with his fantasy as compared to what I’ve sampled of his SciFi.

This book reminded me a lot of the Elijah Bailey (Robot) books by Asimov. It had that same outsider feel with strange environments and the same mysterious/dangerous elements of people trying to stop the main character from discovering the truth.

The main character, Paulo, also reminds me a lot of Elijah. He is smart, good at hand-to-hand combat, and has knack for asking the right questions. He was as fun to get to know as Elijah was.

The main plot revolves around Paulo’s assignment to do a study on ecological impacts in relation to the planet Stittara. The problem is that the planet is the source of products that give youth and health to everyone. What if he finds something that will ruin that? And why does the government have to send him in the first place when they will be out of power by the time he arrives? There is a strange struggle between those who live on the land and those who live beneath it. And, of course, Paulo’s conflicts with the companies with offices on the planet and some of their work.

There are lots of twists and turns in this book, which makes it an interesting read. There were lots of details about space and ecology that also made me feel smarter after reading it – which is a bonus in my opinion.

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Ender's World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender's Game
Ender’s World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After all the excitement of the other books I’ve been reading, this was a nice change of pace.

This book is a collection of essays around what the writers thought or experienced relating to the Ender’s Game series (mostly around the first book, Ender’s Game).

There were some fascinating stories here, especially the ones about how it is being used in the military.

Interspersed between the articles are Q&As with Scott Card about the stories and his intentions and such.

This is a great book to add to the collection for the fan who already has all the other books ;-)

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Review: Earth Afire

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Earth Afire
Earth Afire by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this second book of the series, we finally get to know Mazer Rackham and see him in action.

The alien ship arrives at earth and the Formic war begins – not without some attempts at peace on the part of the humans, of course.

I loved the action and drama in this one. I couldn’t put it down.

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Review: Earth Unaware

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Earth Unaware
Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At a recent conference I attended where Orson Scott Card spoke, he talked about the inception of this set of prequels to the Ender’s Game universe. I was so impressed that I had to go buy them. I also thought the co-author, Aaron Johnston, was awesome and did a great job in several presentations I attended where he presented.

This book, and the next one I read, are about the first Formic War. This is way before Ender or battle school or anything. It is definitely future to our current world (there are space miners out by the asteroid belt and people living on the moon and such), but it still feels like this could be a near future for us. I suppose it is because of the “real-ness” with which the authors (Scott Card said that Aaron did most of the groundwork and wrote it better than he would have, so I’ll just say Aaron) presented the people and activities.

This first book starts out in the far reaches of our solar system where miners are trying to make a living. We get to know a mining family and several members of the family very well, especially the boy, Victor. He is relatively young, but he is wise and mature beyond his years (one of Card’s hallmarks). He is also courageous and brave.

After some conflict with a corporate mining operation, and the loss of some lives because of it, the family struggles with the loss. But soon, they discover that something is coming their way, and it looks like it could be an alien spaceship.

They discover that the ship is destroying everything in its path – but why? And how can they stop it?

Victor is sent on a dangerous mission to warn earth of the impending disaster. Will he get there in time? And will anyone believe him?

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Review: The Message

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

The Message
The Message by Lance Richardson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I got this as a gift for my birthday – I thought it was a little strange that this person would give it to me; usually I get books that are a little more grounded in doctrine.

I think that “The Message” of the book is important and valuable. Family and service are both very important. I liked the idea of a service vacation that the family experienced. I may even try something like that with my family.

I don’t normally read Near Death Experience books, so I don’t know if this one has anything in common with other similar works.

I do believe in Life After Death. I also believe that some people (generally prophets) have been shown what it is like.

I don’t know if “regular people” are experiencing something that is real or just the random firings of a brain in shock and pain while they are in a coma. Or maybe something in between. I am sure that the author saw what he says he did – I just don’t know whether it was real, or at least that all of it was real.

I did find some of the information contradicted what I’ve learned about heaven from scriptures and prophets, so I had a hard time getting past some of it.

It was interesting, and the author’s self-effacing attitude worked well for the genre.

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