Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Third Gate: A Novel
The Third Gate: A Novel by Lincoln Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great single book from Lincoln Child. Fast-paced, great atmosphere, and a fun background, albeit a little improbable make this one good thriller. I flew through it, as I do all of his (just finished Utopia recently for the 2nd time and it was as good as the first time). This one takes place in the Sudd, a nasty bottleneck swap of flotsam and jetsam that has floated down the Nile, and been caught there, creating a morass of fetid smells and muck. The pharaoh’s tomb they are searching for they think is at the bottom of the Sudd, and so they have erected a huge enclosure over it to keep out prying eyes. This could be the find that eclipses Howard Carter and King Tut, as it may be the tomb of the king who united upper and lower Egypt millennia ago. Spies, curses, and paranormal activity keep this going with our hero, a prof. of medieval history and also an enigmalogist who dabbles in things that others don’t understand, like the Loch Ness monster, etc. Suspend your disbelief and you will have fun. Clean, good fun.

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Review: Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having found I am not safe from corrections on Goodreads, 🙂 ,  And having enjoyed this book I decided to share.  it’s odd though.  In all the reviews I have done, and there have been hundreds since I started doing it a year ago,  no one has bothered to correct mistakes, and I sure there have been many.  My memory is horrid on details. But this one detail, on a companion book to the one reviewed, bothered people on both sites enough to comment on it.  Bacigalupi fans must be true fans.  I love his work, and I don’t know how I got the location wrong, since I placed it in India when I read it.  Sometimes I just am clueless (also, he is roundabout in mentioning locations and pinning them down in all his books).   So I decided to get over my silly hurts and get on with it.   So here is an interesting one:

This is an imaginative retelling of the Poe classic “Masque of the Red Death” in which a bunch of aristocrats hide in a castle to try and evade a plague outside. This one starts out in a similar fashion. The city has been decimated by a plague, with shows with bruised skin and open, pus filed sores. It seems to be in the air as well as contact, although medicine and technology are not as advanced. The richer people are issued masks that filter out the bad air, provided by the “ruler” of the city, one self-styled Prince Prospero, who is holding a tight grip on a city that is falling into ruins. He seems to have no interest in reviving the city, bringing hope to the masses, or even curing the disease or giving masks to the poor. Araby, a wealthy young debutante, or she would be if the world was “normal” spends her time at the Debauchery Club where you can forget your troubles any way you want – liquor, drugs , sex. She forgoes the latter, but seeks oblivion as she feels guilt over the death of her younger brother. There is a guy at the entrance, who checks all the patrons to see if they are clean, so they can remove their masks if they wish, that she seems to connect with briefly in their encounters, She is usually accompanied by her best friend April, a niece of the prince. April introduces her to her brother Elliott, a handsome young an with a goal in mind to rebuild the city. The book details the plans of Elliott, Will, and Araby as they try and make sense of this last chance at beating this plague, as another disease, called the Red Death, comes sweeping in, killing it’s victims in a matter of hours. Great world-building, although somewhat simplistic in vocabulary and writing style, but nevertheless, if you enjoyed Poe, this is a great way to stretch out that classic short story.

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Why I Blog

Recently someone made a comment correcting me as to the location of a book that was a companion to the one I was reviewing.  While I know that mistakes are made, and comments are appreciated, it was somewhat terse, and I felt reprimanded.  Childish, but there it is.  But the flip side is that I don’t NOT want comments.  Just my hyper-sensitivity at play.  So as a way of compromise here the scoop:

I have MS, and the lesions on my brain have destroyed several essential areas – memory, mostly short-term, and global processing skills, among other things.  That, and some other auto-immune problems have led me to a point where I can’t do much, and I can’t recall what I read last week, let alone last year.

The minor mistake has been corrected.  I do these reviews on Goodreads, where I do them for my own edification, so that if a book title come along that looks familiar, or I read the previous book in the series, I can go back, get caught up on the plot, and why I liked or didn’t like it.  I tend to be generous in my ratings.  I am not by nature that critical, and these are for me first and foremost – to help me keep track of what read.  I decide to post a few on my blog, just to get it back up and running, and got a great response, so I decided to keep it going.  I do not hold myself out as a book blogger, nor do I get books in the mail, or any other perks a more professional one would receive.  As you can see from my reviews, they are a lot about plot recap, and why I did or didn’t like it.  Not like the author comment’s on a book:  “So and so is the next _____.  Fresh, taut thriller leaves you gasping for air.  Don’t plan on sleeping tonight….” etc.  I save that for the others.

However the comment left me, as always, unsure of what I am doing and why, and I have decided to stop posting them here for a short while until I feel some confidence returning.  Those who really wish to see them in the meantime can follow me at Goodreads under Kristin Lundgren.  Comments are still appreciated, but maybe a smiley face to take the sting off?  🙂

This isn’t anyone’s fault but my own, as I knew when I started this, and mentioned it several times, that I have memory problems, and get confused.  But I decided to go ahead anyway.  So it’s on my head.  And I am super sensitive about it – I was the genius, the MENSA girl, the one who was in the top percentage taking the PSAT, the GMAT, the LSAT.  The woman with a bright future.  MS robbed me of a lot of what makes that happen, and what made me me, and it’s been very hard to adjust.  Not complaining, just explaining why I am so very sensitive about my problems.

But everyone, and anyone, for the future, please keep in mind that these are NOT professional reviews, nor are they ever intended to be, but are more my stream of consciousness.  There is little editing that goes on beyond the typos that I can find, which isn’t always all of them.  They were just for fun here.  To share my love of the books I read, and hope for some discussion now and then about them, since I don’t get to talk to people about books.  They are conversations.  I miss discussing books with people. 😉

See you soon. K

Review: The Drowned Cities

The Drowned Cities
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a companion novel to Shipbreakers, and is set in the same “world” but on a different continent. While the first was in the Gulf area, this one takes place in D.C., in what is now known as the “Drowned Cities.” The waters rose, the city flooded during climate change, and gradually enough political infighting tore the place apart, and various war lords and their militias sprung up and took over, lost and retook parts of the city. The Chinese came in for a decade, as peacekeepers, trying to get them to stop fighting, and cracking down on insurgents, but eventually they gave up and left, and the mixed race kids and the sympathizers were rounded up and either forced into slave labour, had body parts cut off, or were killed outright. One of them, a child named Mahlia, whose father had been a peacekeeper, and her mother an American, was left behind when the peacekeeper ships left. A lot of technology in this dystopian environment has been lost, although some has been retained by China, and a couple of the bigger cities, like Boston and New York. But much of the southern areas have been turned into swampland, and scavenging is the way of life. Mahlia fights her way out of the Drowned Cities after her mother is taken away, but then is caught by one of the militias, the Army of God, who hate all things Chinese, and they chop off her right hand. About to chop off her left, something draws their attention away, and she is is able to escape. It is Mouse, a farm boy coming in to one of the towns to try and find shelter after his farm was overrun. They hide from the soldiers and eventually are found by a doctor from a nearby village who bandages her stump, and takes them in, much to the villagers dismay, who believe that she is cursed. But she learns valuable medical training from the doctor, and finds a place there. He tries to teach her to be passive and to turn the other cheek to the insults hurled her way, but she is pure “Drowned Cities” and it’s in her blood to not take things lying down but to fight back. It’s what the Chinese gave up on and found so distasteful – the idea that every insult must be answered with a bigger one; every hurt with a larger hurt, until everything is gone. Many of the militia would rather see their ex-nation’s capitol be destroyed than allow anyone else to occupy it, even though they were all just Americans once. The stroy is of Mahlia, Mouse and a half-man,an augment named Tool, as they try and find a new place in this crazy world. Very bleak, grim, it’s different from his other books in that this one is more violent, and the people are all less easy to like. Mahlia has a chip on her shoulder as big as a house, and Mouse is stupid – conflicted beyond reason. The soldiers are mostly children, as Mouse is, and they are taught from a young age to kill, maim, rape, etc. Sort of a parable on our political infighting, and the child armies of the terrorists, it is a frightening glimpse at anarchy. But hope is at the end. A good book, but the bleakness made me keep it at four stars. That and Mahlia’s pig-headedness and contradictory ways. If you are going to do something, and damn the consequences, then stick with it, or all those people were hurt in vain. Don’t become lost in guilt and remorse.

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Review: Insurgent

Insurgent
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second volume in a series, the first being Divergent. I really loved Divergent – thought the setting up of the world – the world building as it’s called, was unique and very different, and set it apart. Perhaps I forgave some writing flaws along the way, as I was more concerned with this dystopian solution to the world’s future problems. The city where they live, and it’s fenced – no one can exit or enter without the guard’s permission, is divided into factions, Erudite for those who hunger for knowledge; Abnegation for those who would serve without thought for themselves and are self-effacing; Candor, for those who strive for truth above all else; Amity, where accord and peace hold sway; and Dauntless – where the people are brave, fearless, and yes, dauntless. Dauntless provides the security, Erudite the inventions, medicines, and things that make their city work, Amity the food, Abnegation are the rulers, and Candor is also in positions of power. The only two factions they can’t get along without are Amity and Erudite for what they bring to the table, literally and figuratively. When a youth reaches a certain age, 15 or 16, they are given a series of tests and simulations which will determine which group they should choose. Usually you go back to the group you belong to. Occasionally someone fits somewhere else, and rarely, someone scores good on two factions and can choose. Tris, or Beatrice as she was called in Abnegation, scored well on three – an unheard of thing. She is what is whispered as “Divergent,” or not following the norm. She decided that the life of selfless service in Abnegation is not for her and chooses Dauntless – her brother Caleb chooses Erudite. Once you choose your faction, you go through initiation rites, and in the case of Dauntless, trials, to determine if you are worthy of it.

As this book opens, the city is still reeling from a power play in the previous books, and some people have differing reactions to it. And there are those who are factionless, kicked out by their faction, or didn’t test well in any, etc., or born to a factionless person. Abnegation likes to provide food and clothing to them, but other factions dislike their presence as it upsets the balance. But now, something has to change and various alliances are formed, tested, and split apart, as they try and figure out what is going on, who is behind it, and why. The why is important to Tris, as she scored well in Candor as well as Dauntless and Erudite. She is truly Divergent, and so many of the stratagems employed don’t work on her, and she becomes the focus of some of the groups wanting to use her for their advantage. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, so there must be more coming, referencing what is outside the city, and why the city was set up the way it was. The book was good, but this time, as I was familiar with the set-up, I wasn’t quite as impressed. The actions and reactions often involved Tris, and “Four” as he likes to call himself, her love interest, and her lack of truthfulness, even though she should be fearless, etc. She is afraid, and so things don’t go as planned. They are often running from mistakes she made. But the real kicker in this is the almost complete lack of background information provided on the world and it’s set-up. There is no get up to speed opening. The way it runs is slowly discovered through the book as it advances, and some is never revealed. To me, with my faulty memory, it was once again, like a recent book I read, a study in dredging up as much s I could recall, and then trying to fill in the gaps. So if my earlier re-cap of the set-up is incorrect, you can blame it on that, and the fact that the second books didn’t make certain things clear. Since I loved the world-building, I knew something about the set-up, but little was recalled about the people, or about the actions taken in that book. She sort of drops you in mid-stream. While that may be fine if you are reading them back-to-back, and be unnoticeable, or if you have a superb memory, but if you read the first when it came out, and this one as soon as you could after it’s debut, it’s a long stretch where a lot may be forgotten. And if you never read the first, I think you might be really confused. I almost gave it 3 stars because of that. True serial books, that build on each other, provide, to my mind, better linkage between books, and a brief set-up woven into the next book of what has happened before. But the story line was still interesting, and although the characters remained rather flat, and their emotions par for the course, it still is worth the read.

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Review: Everneath

Everneath
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a modern retelling of the Persephone myth, where Persephone is sentenced to live with Hades in the underground for six months of every year, and when she returns, spring comes. Orpheus and Eurydice are another Greek version. In this one, Nikki is unhappy – her mom died, her father, the mayor of a resort town in Utah, is distant, and she has just found out that the love of her life, her best friend and now boyfriend, Jack, may be cheating on her. Distraught and full of pain, she goes to Cole, a drummer in a band who has been hanging around town, and once before, when she was in physical pain, physical, he managed to draw it away. The book starts out in the underground after 100 years of her emotions being fed upon by Cole, but not knowing the passage of time, and forgetting all but the face of Jack, come to an end. She can chose to stay with him, and become an Everliving herself, or return to the surface for six moths to say goodbye (only six months have passed on the surface, while a 100 years have in Everneath). But if she returns, she will not go back to Cole, but to the Tunnels, where she will be buried in soil, and serve as a “battery,” letting the high court draw on her emotions as food and sustenance. Every 100 years, an Everliving needs to find a new person to feed on. But Cole finds that she is what he calls “the one,” and follows her to the surface, determined to put a wrench in her plans to try and make amends for her abrupt departure the previous time, and rekindlke her feelings for Jack. Cole keeps getting in the way, trying to persuade her to come back with him, where she will, along with his band, rule with him in the Everneath. She is special. But she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her Return, and the myths surrounding it, so that perhaps she can stay. The books ends on a cliffhanger, so you know there will be at least another. While the dialogue, characters, and writing is trite and follows the teen version of angst and secrets, refusing to tell anyone why yo are feeling as you do, the originality of using the Persephone myth, and her interpretation of it bumped it up from 3 to 4 stars.

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Review: The Dark and Hollow Places

The Dark and Hollow Places
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the final book in The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy. This one follows the adventures of Annah, sister of Abigail, or Gabry, from book 2, and Catcher, as well as a few others. It one takes places in the Dark City, where the Recruiters reign supreme, and the city is tightly controlled as to who goes out and esp. in. Life is harsh, and death around the corner, if not from the undead, then from other people, desperate for food and supplies, or the Recruiters themselves. Annah has been waiting for Elias, her ersatz boyfriend, for years now after he left to join the recruiters outside the city, but then Catcher comes and tells her what has been going on. She’s not happy with the turn of events, but she is a survivor. Told in the first person, she refers to Gabry as “her sister” and not by name, which I found annoying, and the action is less in this one, and more about feelings, of loss, love, repudiation, and confusion. While sorting through these feelings, Annah must battle the Returned, and the recruiters, who want her as bait for Catcher. And then the unthinkable happens and they all must decide if they want to live or die, and what it is they want to live for. My major complaint with the book is that it started right out, deep in the story, with very little background information coming through, about characters, and events, and the Return. I had to dig deep, with my faulty memory, to recall what happened, even loosely, in the first two books and was not entirely successful. While it could be a stand-alone novel, for those who read them as they came out, and read a lot, they might not recall enough detail to make it as meaningful as it should. Same thing in the current book I’m reading. There is a way to impart previous information, without being too obvious, and this one had only brief references to previous places, people, and events. I’d recommend reading them back to back.

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Review: Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel

Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel
Bloodline: A Sigma Force Novel by James Rollins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the latest Sigma Force thriller from Rollins. Since this one is focused almost entirely on the group’s main adversary, it does help to have read at least some of the more recent books in the series, to understand not only the subtle relationships between the group, but also the history with the Guild, the arch-nemesis of Sigma. Sigma is a shadowy governmental force, buried deep within DARPA, which is comprised of Painter Crowe, the leader, with his girlfriend, a doctor named Lisa, Grey Pierce, the head of the field team, Kowalski, a big bear of an ex-special forces soldier, Monk, one of the team, whose loss of a hand in combat a number of books back led to a sort of early retirement and house-husband duties as his family expands to two kids, and his wife Kat, also an agent who has left the field, but returns for this one mission. Add in Seichan, a former Guild operative, a new but promising young computer expert Jason, and a new temporary, but likely to return team of Tucker and his war dog, Kane, a highly trained dog with a thousand voice commands and hundred of hand signals, who help proves to be invaluable when the president’s daughter is kidnapped while 8 months pregnant. She and her husband fled the family’s compound after she received information that led her to think she and her baby were in danger. As they chase the leads from Somalia to Dubai, and back to South Carolina, the action if high, the tech is out of this world, and the bio ethics cutting edge. The Guild is exposed, but not dead. At the end, he gives a number of links to various sites where you can find more information to back up much of the research in the book, and some of the fascinating facts. A fitting piece to the Sigma Force.

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Review: Utopia

Utopia
Utopia by Lincoln Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great one by Lincoln Child, writing solo. This is the second go around for me, previously having read it about 8 plus years ago. It is a very well-researched, strong thriller in an amusement park, miles outside of Las Vegas, set in a deep chasm, so that visitors approach the front of the park on ground level, and it falls away behind the park to several levels of offices, maintenance etc, . The park is under a large dome, sectioned into four themes – Gaslight, a perfectly recreated Victorian London, complete with Jack the Ripper holograms waving bloody knives and running around, fog, and tea, lots of it. It also “rains” every so often, just for about 90 seconds, a light mist, just enough to keep it cool and damp. It even smells like old London might. The next is Callisto, a bustling spaceport, with tons of fabulous roller coasters and scream rides, along with robots. All the robots are connected to a main frame via a metanet, or AI intelligence device that takes what the robots have “learned” each day, uploads it to the mainframe, and down loads it back to them each morning. The next is Boardwalk, a recreation of a turn-of-the-century boardwalk, like Coney Island, down to the costumes, food and rides – a wooden rollercoaster cleverly disguising the latest in modern roller coaster technology with a steel inner frame. The last is Camelot, a medieval recreation, complete with staged battle scenes and shows, with fire breathing dragons. Specialists are brought in from everywhere, to ensure that the park is perfect – food specialists in history, orchid specialists to tend to the orchids, fireworks guys, and Andrew Warne, who has been summoned by his one time love, now head of the park, Sarah, to look at the metanet, due to some possible bugs. A widower, he brings along his teen daughter Georgia to let her have some fun after what he thinks is a short meeting. But he is told he will have to dismantle the whole metanet, his baby and the vision of the original founder of the park, now dead, Eric Nightingale, who envisioned more of an immersive experience and less on rides, and casinos, and vendors. Warne is appalled, it is his life’s work, and since he is currently floundering , he needs this metanet to work. They start looking at why there have been one-time glitches in various robots, with one major one in a ride that resulted in a broken leg. As they dig deeper they begin to see that the code has been altered, but by whom. Meanwhile, upstairs in the offices, Sarah is being visited by an arrogant man, who says he controls the park, and she must do as he says. As he stages bigger and worse accidents around the park, they must race to save the park and themselves, as they are effectively trapped inside the dome,with a madman and his crew holding them hostage. Taut, well written, and meticulously researched, this is Child at his best.

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Review: Crashers

Crashers
Crashers by Dana Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first book in a series by new author Dana Haynes involving the NTSB people who descend on a crash site, to examine the evidence, take the plane apart, piece by piece, and determine what went wrong. This can take more than a year. Back on the team, for his expertise, is Tommy Tomzak, a pathologist who had quit the NTSB when the previous crash investigation where he was IIC, the in-charge investigator, never got answered. He happened to be in the area when the Vermeer One Eleven went down in Oregon, carried the most sophisticated black box available. Capable of monitoring over 6000 systems and checking them, it is a new and valuable asset that should cut down the investigation time dramatically. Called in by by Susan Tanaka, an inter-governmental liaison from the NTSB on this crash, is Kiki Duvall, a voice recorder specialist, known as a”sonar witch” from her years on subs, who can hear things that others can’t, and an ex-flame of Tommy’s, and a number of other specialists, all vying for their part of the turf. At first they determine that there was no bomb and that it was pilot error, but they still have to finish the investigation and tie up loose ends, and it’s those “loose ends” that help Tommy and Kiki determine that there might be another explanation. Switching from the investigation to the FBI field offices in LA, and their Israel asset, Daria, who also gets dragged in from that angle, until finally the pieces begin to line up. A great, interesting view into what it takes to investigate a crash, and the many methods that can be used. I’ve already got book 2 on hold at the library.

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