Tag Archives: Justin Cronin

{2015 Goals} Reducing the TBR Stash – The First Five

Even though I haven’t bought that many new books since we moved from our house into the condo three years ago (I have indulged in the occasional book-buying binge – I admit it – but not many) my physical TBR stash hasn’t reduced in size. My TBR books are double and triple stacked on whatever surfaces I can afford to give over to them (which means closets and the tops of bookshelves).

So I thought I’d motivate myself and see if I can’t do something about the state of the TBR in 2015. As I mentioned in my previous post (A Short Story a Day), I just don’t do well with reading challenges – although I really get tempted. I know there are quite a few reading challenges aimed at helping us bookish types reduce our TBR piles, but knowing me, the moment I sign up for one of them, I’m doomed never to even look at my TBR stacks in the new year, much less take books off of them and – gasp – read them.

But there’s nothing wrong with a little quiet, informal self-challenge. I went through my TBR stash and picked ten books that I really really want to read. Why these books were still hidden away in my TBR stash beats me – it’s not like I was saying to myself, “Oh, I don’t remember buying this!”. Every book I pulled from my stash, I knew full well was there. Because, as I mentioned, these are books I really really want to read.

I think it’s about time I read them, don’t you think? I’ve picked ten books. Here are the first five:

Photo 2014-12-18, 8 18 55 PM

1. Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completelyaccurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

What more can I say? It’s about time I read this, that’s for sure. I expect a lot of laugh out loud moments when I do.

2. Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz

“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Meet Odd Thomas, the unassuming young hero of Dean Koontz’s dazzling New York Times bestseller, a gallant sentinel at the crossroads of life and death who offers up his heart in these pages and will forever capture yours.

Sometimes the silent souls who seek out Odd want justice. Occasionally their otherworldly tips help him prevent a crime. But this time it’s different. A stranger comes to Pico Mundo, accompanied by a horde of hyena-like shades who herald an imminent catastrophe. Aided by his soul mate, Stormy Llewellyn, and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Odd will race against time to thwart the gathering evil.

I decided I wanted to read Odd Thomas after I read In Odd We Trust, the Odd Thomas graphic novel. The link is to the review I wrote of it – back in 2009. Uh, yeah, I may not have mentioned this, but I apparently have books that have been in my TBR stash for quite a while now. Quite a while.  

3. The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written, The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family’s past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe – in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world.

Another one I’ve been wanting to read for a long while. The blurb absolutely captivates me.

4. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, by Maria Konnikova

No fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes. But is his extraordinary intellect merely a gift of fiction, or can we learn to cultivate these abilities ourselves, to improve our lives at work and at home?

We can, says psychologist and journalist Maria Konnikova, and in Mastermind she shows us how. Beginning with the “brain attic”—Holmes’s metaphor for how we store information and organize knowledge—Konnikova unpacks the mental strategies that lead to clearer thinking and deeper insights. Drawing on twenty-first-century neuroscience and psychology, Mastermind explores Holmes’s unique methods of ever-present mindfulness, astute observation, and logical deduction. In doing so, it shows how each of us, with some self-awareness and a little practice, can employ these same methods to sharpen our perceptions, solve difficult problems, and enhance our creative powers. For Holmes aficionados and casual readers alike, Konnikova reveals how the world’s most keen-eyed detective can serve as an unparalleled guide to upgrading the mind.

I first saw this on Brain Pickings (2013, so aha! This one hasn’t been in the TBR stash that long!). It’s the only non-fiction book in this list – I think it’s because it was with some of my other fiction TBRs. Now that I think about it, I have a lot of non-fiction books I want to get to, too …

5. The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

I LOVED The Passage  – as you can see from my review, I couldn’t stop raving about it. I was so excited about the sequel. So much so I even bought it in hardcover (I hardly ever do that). And then – I never got around to reading it! Partly it’s because I kept thinking I really should reread The Passage first, to reaquaint myself with the world. And when I start thinking like that, well, you know how it is. Now I have to find the time to read two big books. Big obstacle right there.

But I’m not sabotaging myself this time around. I’ll just plunge into The Twelve, trust that Justin Cronin will bring me up to speed relatively quickly and put me right back into the story.

So these are the first five books from my TBR that I plan on reading in 2015. Next five will show up tomorrow (because, you know, I’m blogging every day now …)

What’s the state of your TBR? Do you have any strategies for reducing your TBR piles in the new year?

My Reading Dilemma

I got my hot little hands on this book yesterday:

The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

Yes. The Twelve, by Justin Cronin.

So here’s my reading dilemma: I am mega-busy right now. Lots of indexing deadlines, and I’m participating in NaNoWriMo.

I absolutely adored the previous book in the series, The Passage (you can read my review of The Passage here). It was the first book I ever read on my iPhone, and that was all a fluke – I happened to download the sample chapters onto my iPhone and of course, immediately bought the book as soon as I finished reading those preview pages. 

I did not, at any time, really realize the book was over 700 pages; I was too engrossed in the world Cronin had created, and also, the iPhone is much much lighter than a 784-page hardcover book.

At 592 pages, The Twelve is a bit shorter than The Passage. But I still remember what happened when I read The Passage. I could not put it down. I don’t think I did put it down, except possibly to sleep for a few fitful hours. As I recall, I finished it in two days.

So that’s my dilemma. I’m very afraid when I open this book and begin reading, the hours will slip by, and people will have to drag me away from the book, yelling and screaming, just so I can get my work done and keep on track with NaNoWriMo.

I’m asking myself, do I have the discipline to read this book one chapter at a time?

I don’t think so.

I hate dilemmas like this.

Has this kind of dilemma happened to you? What would YOU do in my place? Have you read The Twelve? Did you like it?

Rambling About Reading

I’d kicked July off with a migraine (my first since I was 16!), followed by a two-week long tension headache. It’s kind of funny, but once I realized it was all due to tension, I relaxed, got a massage, and the whole thing went away.

There’s one thing that’s very difficult to do when you’re caught in the throes of a headache or a migraine – read! So when I started feeling better, it was like my mind was starved for books. Really really starved. In the last four weeks, it feels like all I’ve been doing is reading, and reading, and more reading. I was getting through books so fast, I didn’t have time to Pin them, or even add them to Goodreads.

So today I’m sitting here, trying to remember what-all I’ve read over the past four weeks. I’m probably missing some reads, but here’s the list so far:

Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy: The Summoning, The Awakening and The Reckoning

     

I enjoyed this series, and I’m very glad that I came to it late, since I really really hate cliffhangers – but guess what? When you have all three books of the trilogy in your hot little hands, it’s like having one lovely, long absolutely thrilling book to read. You can say things like, cliffhangers? What cliffhangers?

Book One of Kelley Armstrong’s Darkness Rising trilogy, The Gathering

I enjoyed The Gathering even more than the Darkest Powers trilogy. And I was more than a little bummed out because I got the ebook copy of The Calling, the second book in the series, from the library – and I accidentally deleted and returned it!  So yes, I’m now back on hold for it. Sigh.

And from Daniel Suarez:

First, I decided to use up some of my Audible credits, and after browsing around, decided on Kill Decision. I enjoyed it, and remembered that some of the reviewers at Audible mentioned that Suarez’s Daemon/Freedom ™ books were even better, so I decided to give Daemon a try.

I LOVED Daemon! It was on-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting – I devoured it in a day. I’m now at the start of the sequel, Freedom ™.

   

Mind Game, by Christine Feehan

I also read one of the books from Christine Feehan’s GhostWalkers series, Mind Game. And this is what I discovered about myself (well, okay, I already knew this) – I’m not really cut out for the romantic thriller/paranormal types of reads.  Reading Mind Game, I loved the story, I loved the characters, and all I really wanted to know was – what’s going to happen next?

The book would have been a page-turner for me, but all the love scenes got in the way. The first love scene was great, in that it was very credible. Actually all of the love scenes were very credible – they happen at reasonable times, and not in the middle of a suspenseful bit of plot.

I’ve always disliked books where the male and female protagonists are hiding out, people are hunting them, they are basically facing death around every corner – and they somehow find the time to have mind blowing sex in the middle of it all.  I mean, really, if your options are A. have ground-shaking fireworks-driven sex or B. survive to see tomorrow, what would you choose?

And even if you did choose option A, seriously, would you really be able to keep your mind on the moment? Wouldn’t you have some pesky, worrisome thoughts lurking at the back of your mind, like Wait! What was that I just heard? My God, it sounds like footsteps coming our way. I’m really glad he’s enjoying this, but I wish he’d keep the moans down to an almost inaudible level. What if the killer hears us?

Anyway, Feehan wrote that first love scene very credibly, and that first scene was all quite enjoyable. But I ended up quickly flipping through all the remaining love scenes, because what I really wanted to know was, what’s going to happen?

So, no, romantic suspense/paranormals just aren’t really my cup of tea.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I’m in the middle of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter right now, and it’s been quite an interesting read so far. I like the way Grahame-Smith weaves fictitious journal entries into the narrative. The whole thing reads rather like nonfiction – fun stuff!

A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin

Yes! I finally got around to picking up this series! I got the audiobook version of A Game of Thrones, and enjoyed it so much in audio, when I saw the boxed set containing Books 1-4 at Costco last week, I couldn’t resist. I’ll probably end up reading them all in print first, and then going back to the audio versions for a re-read – there are so many characters, I suspect I’ll find it a little less confusing if I tackle the series in print first.

Power Play, by Joseph Finder

I’ve had Power Play in my TBR stacks for a long time now. We don’t really have much space for my TBR piles in the condo, so I stash them all in my bedroom closet, along the narrow shelves that run along the top. We’ve also managed to squeeze our dressers into the closet, the surface of which provides additional TBR room. I happened to wander into the closet one day, thinking vaguely about changing out of my PJs, and saw Power Play on the top of the stack sitting on my dresser. I grabbed it, started reading, and didn’t stop until I was finished. Definitely a page-turner. It’s the sort of book that you finish and think to yourself, this would make a great movie.

The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

This mystery from Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen has a nice touch of humour to lighten up what would otherwise be quite a grim plot. It was an interesting, quick read, and I’d like to read more in this series about detective Carl Mørck, not so much because Mørck is that absorbing a character, but because I want to find out more about his quirky assistant, Assad!

Hotwire, by Alex Kava

This is the first Maggie O’Dell book I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be reading more in the series. I would have preferred more of a blockbuster, justice for all kind of ending, but I guess when you’re talking about government and bureaucracy, it’s not really such a credible thing. Still, I found O’Dell interesting, and have put several more of the titles in the series on my TBR list.

The Vanessa Michael Monroe series, by Taylor Stevens

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Informationist, by Taylor Stevens. Munroe is a wonderfully strong protagonist, and Stevens delivers a thrilling, suspenseful read. As soon as I finished The Informationist, I grabbed a copy of The Innocent, the second book in the series. While The Innocent was a good read, it didn’t have quite the flare of The Informationist. But I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

And the coming attractions:

So all in all, it’s been quite a good four weeks for me, reading-wise! I suspect the rest of August will serve up more of the same, as I’ve got some great-sounding books on hold at the library, as well as some coming-soon attractions that I can hardly wait to get my hands on:

The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny

What about you? What good books have you read lately?

Fabulous Reading Streak – Ending, or Just Beginning?

image Last night I finished This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George, and breathed a happy little sigh. I realized I’ve been on a wonderful reading streak, during which I’ve read one enjoyable book after another.

True, This Body of Death wasn’t quite as good as earlier George mysteries, but it was still a lovely read, and very nice to really have Inspector Lynley back, if you know what I mean.

My reading streak began when I picked up The Passage, by Justin Cronin, last month. (This is one of my “best books I’ve read this year”, by the way, and I highly, highly recommend it – you can read my review here.)

image What drove me to pick this 784-page book as the first book to read on the iPhone (the first non-reread, that is) is beyond me. All I know is, I downloaded the first two chapters as a free preview and before I knew it, I had bought and was deep into the full ebook itself.

I call this a reading streak, but I did have a few clunkers here and there. But the beauty of my reading method is that I have very low tolerance for a book that doesn’t hold my interest really early on (and by that, I mean by the end of the first chapter), so when I come across a clunker, I end up not having to spend that much of my reading time on it.

In other words: next!

So let’s just say that, for all intents and purposes, I moved, albeit not absolutely smoothly, from The Passage to Stieg Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy.

As it turned out, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest was my favorite of the three Larsson books, with its government conspiracy angle.

image Which may have been why I enjoyed Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother so much. That link is to Amazon, but if you like reading ebooks, you can download it for free at Doctorow’s site. The free download comes in all flavors – I chose Epub, and read the book on my iPhone (of course).

I moved from Little Brother to Elizabeth George’s This Body of Death, another read on my iPhone.

In case you’re wondering who’s responsible for my decision to read both these last books, the blame falls to Jill of Rhapsody in Books, who posted wonderful reviews of both these books here (Little Brother) and here (This Body of Death); I would have read This Body of Death sooner or later – her review just made it sooner – but I’d forgotten about Little Brother until I read her review.

So now I’m asking myself, is this the end of a lovely reading streak? Or just the beginning? I’m hoping it’s just the beginning, as I’m now gathering together books to take with me camping (yes, that camping trip is coming up soon, very soon), and I think I’m off to a good start already.

In fact, I began reading Marisa de Los Santo’s Belong to Me the other day, and I’ve been loving it so far. (You can blame this one on Jill, too.)

Any recommendations on your end, to help me continue this marvelous reading streak?

The Passage, by Justin Cronin

The PassageI was hesitant about reading The Passage, by Justin Cronin; I loved the premise of the book (a secret government project to create super warriors ends up unleashing a deadly vampiric virus onto an unsuspecting world – I ask you, how could I resist?), but I was uncertain because of the dystopian nature of the book (those of you who know my reading likes and dislikes fairly well probably aren’t surprised; I have several books on my list I’m hesitant about simply because they’re dystopian).

But one day, I was feeling a little bored, and fooling around with my iPhone (which happens to be one of the best little tools for alleviating boredom that I know of), and I ended up downloading the two free preview chapters of the book from one of my favorite ebook sites.

I started reading, and I was hooked. Stephen King had this to say about The Passage:

“Every so often a novel-reader’s novel comes along: an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination. Summer is the perfect time for such books, and this year readers can enjoy the gift of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Read fifteen pages and you will find yourself captivated; read thirty and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. It has the vividness that only epic works of fantasy and imagination can achieve. What else can I say? This: read this book and the ordinary world disappears.”

And let me say, he is so right. I literally read those first fifteen pages and I was captivated. After thirty pages, and I could not put the book (or rather, my iPhone) down.

It’s a hefty tome, weighing in at 784 pages, but I read it all on my iPhone, and when I finished the last paragraph, I did so reluctantly, not wanting to leave the world Cronin had weaved.

In a Q&A at Amazon, Cronin was asked, “You are a PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of literary fiction. Does The Passage represent a departure for you?” His reply:

I think it’d be a little silly of me not to acknowledge that The Passage is, in a number of ways, overtly different from my other books. But rather than calling it a ‘departure,’ I’d prefer to describe it as a progression or evolution. First of all, the themes that engage me as a person and a writer are all still present. Love, sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, courage. The bonds between people, parents and children especially. The pull of history, and the power of place, of landscape, to shape experience. And I don’t think the writing itself is different at all. How could it be? You write how you write.

And I think this is exactly why the The Passage gripped me so tightly. Yes, it was a fabulous thriller of a book, about a vampire virus running rampant, a world pushed into destruction, and the power of the human race to continue living despite it all. The plot was breathtaking in its breadth and excitement, exactly the kind of thing I like in a book.

But at The Passage’s core are those themes that Cronin talks about – love, sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, courage. And this is what makes the book such a beautiful read.

It says a lot that today, about two weeks after I finished the book, I still remember all the main characters. They remain so very vivid to me. If book two begins with these same characters, I know they will come back to me immediately, as full of life as when I read the final pages; and if book two begins with different characters, I have the utmost faith that I will be drawn into the new story immediately.

And the dystopian aspect? I loved it. The dark, bleak hopelessness that I associate with dystopian fiction isn’t what dominates the book; it’s a dystopian world that, despite everything, is filled with so much human hope and potential.

When I first finished reading this book, and began thinking about writing this post, all I could think of saying was, “Wow. Wow. Wow.” And “OMG, you’ve GOT to read this.” I still want to say these things, and so I’ll end my post this way.

The Passage is an incredible, absolute wow of a read. Read it, and you’ll be captivated. If you’re at all uncertain, do what I did – download the free preview chapters from your favorite ebook site, and take the plunge.

And a PS: despite the vampire virus/destruction of the world theme, there is minimal blood and gore. Cronin’s writing is wonderful, and he’s quite able to provoke an emotional response from the reader without the need to be extreme.