Review: Tomorrow and Tomorrow

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Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that ends up not being what most readers originally expected it to be. Whether that is a failing or a triumph seems to depend on the reader. I can certainly say that Tomorrow and Tomorrow isn't what I expected it to be... but it ended up being much much more complex and interesting. The story is a potpourri of genres. It is a dystopian post-apocalypse of sorts but is also crime fiction and romance and tragedy. Thomas Sweterlisch created such a complex story with a terrifyingly realistic future of brain-implanted ad-ware and privacy invasion. His description of the future is only a slightly stretch from what is already a part of our everyday lives that it is completely believable and horrifying.

The story itself is not going to make everyone happy. I'll admit that it is kind of a dreary tale. I liked it for that fact but many readers will feel beat down by it. I thought it was fantastic though! The writing was impeccable and the narrator was incredible (I listened to the audiobook).

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Review: City of Refuge

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City of Refuge
City of Refuge by Tom Piazza

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think anyone who visits New Orleans leaves feeling like they belong there. I personally think there is a bit of N.O. in everyone. After spending a month in the city this last year the city called my name and my wife and I seriously considered moving there. That's the primary reason I scooped up City of Refuge. I wanted to remember a bit of what I felt when I was there. It's a book about Katrina and how it affected two families from very different sides of the socioeconomic spectrum but it's also about that magical thing you find in New Orleans that plants itself in your soul when you go there.

Tom Piazza is from New Orleans and his writing reflects that fact. His love and passion for the culture and city permeates through the pages and makes the story a pleasure to read. It is a very painful and heart-wrenching story but it is told in a beautifully poetic way.

I'm certain that a big reason I enjoyed this book so thoroughly is because of my time spent in the city soaking up the culture but it is simply a fantastic book. I highly recommend it to anyone - even those not particularly interested in reading about the events of Katrina.

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Review: The Girl with All the Gifts

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The Girl with All the Gifts
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm having a hard time coming up with a way to review a book that I don't want to ruin by giving away a single detail. The book sleeve duped me, as it did many others, leading me to believe that it was about some little genius girl in a secret prison facility. And, I guess it was.... but that's not even the start of it. The author did something very interesting - and quite brilliant - by not really letting the reader know what we were getting ourselves into. The cover shows nothing but a yellow background with the silhouette of a young girl with her arms outstretched. It could have been about anything. I was so drawn by the lack of explanation that I put aside my long list of other books I need to read and put this one next to my bed.

The book is absolutely brilliant! Without giving away the story or even the genre, let me just say that this is a book that totally rejuvenates a subject that has been beaten senseless over the last few years. It is so original and refreshing that I was like a giddy little kid, or perhaps like a teenager getting to first base for the first time, while I ravaged its pages. I gobbled this story up with fury!

The story is terrifying (as it promises) in so many ways... and none of those ways will I speak of because it will be your pleasure to discover them when you pick it up and read it the first time!

After reading 'The Girl With All The Gifts' I was so excited that I immediately had to scramble online to try and discover who the real man is behind the pseudonym M.R. Carey. The author's biography on the last page makes it seem as though he is trying to be uber-secretive about who he is... and as a comic geek, I needed to know who this man is (as the bio claimed that he is a Marvel and DC comic writer). After a very short search, it appears that my mission was unnecessary as M.R. Carey isn't much of a pseudonym at all. The author is Mike Carey (whose middle name I assume starts with an 'R').

Let's just say that this is sure to be a huge hit when it eventually hits shelves in June 2014! It proves that tons of life can still be squeezed out of a genre that has been worn pretty thin. I can't even express how much I loved this book!

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Review: The Goldfinch

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The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you look at this brick of a book your first impression, as mine was, might be: "Holy crap this better be good or I will use it as toilet paper for the next 10 years of my life!" The Goldfinch is a 771 page behemoth of a book (or in my case, a 36 hour audiobook joyride!) but it is one of the most incredible pieces of fiction I've read in a long time. I was travelling a lot in the last few month so I decided that it would be easier to tackle an audiobook of this scale than to hack away at a few pages at a time.

I would consider it to be primarily a book of "literary fiction", not clearly fitting into a subgenre that I generally read. It's one of those books that is built upon fantastically crafted characters and beautifully written prose. The writing is simply impeccable. Donna Tartt did something that is rare in books with a great concept - she executed it perfectly.

I have to admit that I have a great love for tragic characters (perhaps this says something of my own life) and The Goldfinch is chock full of them. There's something about Theo Decker that I think almost anyone can see in themselves. Many of his decisions are those that I could imagine myself making in such tragic circumstances. I found myself regularly on the edge of tears. I felt much like the boy in The Neverending Story movie who is so involved in the book that he can literally be heard and felt by the characters.

In my opinion, this is one of the best books of the year and should be read by everyone. It is surely a modern classic.

(Just a quick note on the audiobook version: The narrator, David Pittu, was one of the best I've ever experienced. I think that can often make or break a good book.)

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Review: Red Rising

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Red Rising
Red Rising by Pierce Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Giving Red Rising a 5-star review is likely one of the easiest things I will do today... and I plan to sit around and do not much more than take a long nap. In a sea of dystopian fiction, Red Rising has managed to stand out as something much more interesting. People are jumping quickly to compare it to The Hunger Games, Enders Game, etc. but that's such an unfair generalization of an incredible book simply because it has similar elements that are common in most dystopian fiction. Hunger Games is a kids book. Sure, I enjoyed it, but it was fluff. Red Rising is gritty and dark and adult. No, there's not much sex or profanity... but there plenty of violence. Bloody, ruthless, constant violence. And it's brilliant!

Red Rising is a combination of science fiction, dystopian fiction, and action/adventure. It was a sprinkling of all the best stuff about those genres packaged into an amazing nerdgasm!

I only really have one complaint in Red Rising: it's written in 1st-person. In general I hate this method of writing. It seems juvenile. Pierce Brown manages to make it work very very well but I still wish he would have chosen a different perspective. A minor flaw in the overall picture, I suppose.

This is arguably one of the best dystopian novels I've read. It takes all of the elements of a good story and combines them into an action-packed novel. There are very few series that I continue with but this one I will be waiting for impatiently.

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Review: Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action

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Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action
Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action by Nick Vujicic

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There is no question that Nick Vujicic is inspirational. He has overcome some incredible odds and has lived a fantastically interesting life. I've seen several videos of his speeches and lectures and thought I would have gobbled this book up. I was convinced I'd be flooded with emotion while flipping the pages.... but I wasn't.

I was actually bored. Terribly bored.

There are those people who absolutely crave self-help types of books and those who dread them. I'm somewhere in the middle. This one just didn't do it for me though. It goes in the pile on unfinished books for this year.

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Review: The Rosie Project

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The Rosie Project
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was extremely disappointed by The Rosie Project. At the time I began reading it, its Goodreads rating was a 4.15 out of 5 which is pretty dang high. Many books of much higher quality are getting ratings much much lower. Now to be completely honest, this is more of a chick-lit type of novel, which I tend to avoid. It's a love story about a guy who thinks he can find a perfectly compatible wife by scientific means alone and all the while, without realizing it, he falls for a girl named Rosie who fits none of his criteria (this isn't a spoiler - you can pretty much figure it out by reading the book jacket).

The book is written as a comedy, which I think is its first great fault. I can think of only 1 or 2 comedy books that were successful in being a good story as well as being a comedy. I don't think there was a single time that I laughed out loud while reading this novel. Sure, some things were smirk-inducing but it kind of took away from what could have been a great story. I'll echo what other reviewers have said by pointing out that this could have been a much better novel if it were written as a drama rather than a comedy.

There were also some things that I found myself really picking apart such as the fact that this alleged genius had such a poorly-crafted scientific method in the Rosie Project that it took away a lot of the credibility for me. Also, some of the events in the story were just so over-the-top that I wanted to tear the pages out.

In the end the book was simply okay. It was mildly entertaining and readable and will likely get picked up as a romantic comedy in a big-budget movie. And quite honestly, that's where it would be better. It might even be funny as a movie. It just wasn't as a book.

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