Friday, March 29, 2019

March's Book Reviews and Previews

This month, I had some great reads playing on my kindle including Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, Gene Born: Awakening by Lilly Griffin, Hear Me by Virginia Babcock, and The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer.  Admittedly, I had some trouble getting into that last one.

Happy reading,

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Mind-Bending Paradoxes in a Tale of What It Means to be Human

The plot of Dark Matter is driven by the concept of alternate worlds.  Jason Dessen wakes up in one after being abducted at gunpoint – one in which he isn’t married, doesn’t have a son.  And with the reference to Jason’s occupation in physics, you might guess there is an underlying scientific explanation (of sorts).  But whether the synopsis evoked thoughts of Schrodinger’s cat or only seemed an interesting science-fiction MacGuffin, one thing is certain – the concept enables nonstop action as you explore strange realities.  It also creates mind-bending paradoxes; what does it even mean to meet yourself in an alternate world?  But lest these references to science cause you to hesitate, let me say that Crouch does an admirable job of making the theory accessible.  Find the complete review or get more information from Amazon here:

Gene Born: Awakening (The Koci Hybrid Series Book 1) by Lilly Griffin

A Front-Row Seat to Humankind’s Capacity for Cruelty

Do you know what happens when you modify the genes of a human, mix in some DNA from a couple of animal species and some from an alien race (the Koci), and then let an Artificial Intelligence (AI) control the body’s muscles?  Well, me either.  But then, neither did the scientists in Gene Born: Awakening, a story that takes place on a dying earth circa 2054.  And if experimenting on humans without the foggiest about the outcome seems heartless, that’s just the tip of the inhumanity iceberg for these men.  They kill and maim and torture their test subjects, their only concern being to leave enough of them to be slaves in whatever new world they find in outer space.  It’s a tale well deserving of the author’s warning in the synopsis:  this story contains content that may trigger readers sensitive to violence and references to sexual assault.  Potential reader, be advised.  Find the complete review or get more information from Amazon here: 

Hear Me by Virginia Babcock

Action-Laden Story that Could Use More Credible Threats to Life and Love

Madeline (Maddy) Quincy, the heroine of Hear Me, gets visions from her departed ancestors, a group she calls her ‘grannies’.  Sometimes they take control of her body and reveal hard-truths that Maddy would rather avoid, like announcing a bride’s pregnancy with the best man in the midst of her wedding ceremony.  Sometimes, the visions are just helpful.  She’d straightened her hair that morning so the images were warning her that a shampoo was necessary.”  But often, the grannies warned of impending danger, visions that drove the story.  There are both good and bad aspects of this plot mechanism.  It was always a bit startling when, in the midst of an otherwise tranquil scene, Maddy would suddenly say, ‘Jacob, the bad guys are coming.  Get your gun.’  But the downside is that this foreshadowing of both the threat and the solution reduced the drama.  Then, in the aftermath, the events leading up to the incident are described as a flashback, e.g., the police “… informed him that eleven staff members had been shot, and four had died.”  Letting the reader experience the threat as it unfolds would make Maddy’s pronouncements less startling, but overall, it would also render the situations more gut-wrenching.  Find the complete review or get more information from Amazon here:

The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer

A Questionable Plot Bogs Down in Repetitive Trips Down Memory Lane

The Escape Artist has Jim "Zig" Zigarowski, a mortician at Dover Air Force Base, sticking steadfastly to his creed to help the families of our fallen military – a truly honorable calling.  Part of his pledge to them is to verify the identity of every victim.  So, when he’s expecting the body of Nola Smith, a person he knows, but someone else is in the casket, Zig ignores the advice of all his friends and the orders of his superiors in order to investigate.  It’s a premise that promises tense action and unexpected twists, which it delivers.  Unfortunately, the story also gets bogged down in prolonged bouts with angst and lengthy trips down memory lane.  Find the complete review or get more information from Amazon here:

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