I was away on vacation last week. I did a lot of reading but very little writing, so here are seven reviews.
Thickety By J. A. White
This is the story of a cult set in a premodern time. They are the followers of an ancient prophet who banned all magic and all witches. Unfortunately, magic is a very real part of their world and some have gifts for it. If they are discovered they are hung. Unfortunately, Kara’s mother was one of those who were hung. And unfortunately, Kara discovers her mother’s book of spells and her mother’s magic. The daughter of the man whose job it is to enforce the laws against magic also discovers the magic. At the heart of this story is the question of whether it is magic that is intrinsically good or bad or is its nature decided by the practitioner. It is at times a scary and intense story. It is the first in a series of four books.
Ready Player One by Ernest Kline
This is the story of a futuristic world that is a disaster. So those who can go to school, live, and work in a world of virtual reality. Keeping track of the characters in their real lives and in the life of their avatars who also have separate identities is at times a little confusing. This is a great story, but it is also a history of gaming and of the early development of the PC. If you want to recall the early days of Commodore 64 and Tandy with a little Pac-man and Atari you will love this book. Not being all that skilled in gaming I was not clear which games were real and which ones were created by the author for the story. Good read.
Listen by Stephanie S. Tolan
This is the story of Charley who prior to the beginning of the story has lost her mother to death, her best friend to friend issues and is recovering from a bad car accident. She lives with her father and a housekeeper in a small lakeside community. I mean so small you can walk around the lake easily. That is unless they had to put a rod in your leg and it hurts when you walk and you don’t have your strength back. The story takes place over the summer. It is a story of the healing of body and soul and of bringing a dog, who fears everyone, in from the cold.
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
This is the story of Rose (rows) who obsesses over homonyms, which she tells us are really homophones, and prime numbers. She has been told her mother left her and she lives with a father who has little patience with her. The kindest thing he ever does though is bringing her a dog, but then a year later during a storm he lets the dog out and the dog doesn’t come back. Their relationship takes a dark turn. Because of her dog and a few other events, Rose is finally able to be accepted and to bond with her classmates. She is in the fifth grade. This book makes me wonder why we are so hard to accept those who are different. Whether they choose to be different or they just are different, if it’s not hurting anyone why isn’t it okay.
Book of the Dead (TombQuest, Book 1) by Michael Northrop
What would you think if you had been sickly all your life and at a point that you were near death your mother used secret powers and a formula from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to heal you, but in doing so she unleashed amazing destructive powers? Well, you wouldn’t have time to think because worse things would be coming your way. This is the first in a five-book series.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
One of the challenges in writing a story set in an alternate world is how to inform your reader of the setting, while also getting the story moving. The first 20% of this book is spent creating the setting and introducing us to Darrow the main character. Next, we move into a Pygmalion phase. (Click on Pygmalion and it will take you to the Wikipedia page that explains it.) The thing is we are not just teaching Darrow how to speak and how to act, we are also painfully and carefully remaking his body so that even though he was born the lowest of the Reds he will now pass as an elite Gold. Then we have maybe a chapter of Harry Potter as the 100 candidates are sorted into 12 different houses, not by a hat, but by a draft. Then the story really gets going as we play the hunger games as tribes rather than individuals. However, Darrow, like Catness, does not only have issues with the other teams he also wants to take on the referee/sponsors who don’t seem to be playing fair. This is the first in a five-book series.
Team Yankee A novel of World War III by Harold Coyle
I have to admit that before I saw the subtitle I thought this would be a book about baseball. Instead, it is a book about tank warfare set in 1985 as world war III breaks out. Our battles are set in Eastern Europe. One of the interesting things about writing about the near future is the world can change faster than we expect. The battle lines for the book begin along the national divide between East and West Germany. East and West Germany reunited in 1990. I am told that young men who love football or maybe any sport imagine themselves as the star player. Sometimes replaying real games in their heads except because of their exceptional ability they save the day. I am told as they get older they finally hang up their cleats or their skates or their shorts or their bats and imagine themselves as the coach. This story has a lot of strategic tank movements and battle deployments. It was to me as if a first lieutenant dreamed of how the war would have been won if they had been the battalion commander.