Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Sandman

by Lars Kepler
449 pgs  (Joona Linna series #4)

As The Sandman begins, a young man named Mikael Kohler-Frost is found wandering along a snowy railroad bridge near Stockholm, nearly dead from both sickness and malnourishment. It’s the first time he’s been seen since he and his younger sister Felicia went missing from their home 13 years ago.

Thirteen years ago, when the two disappeared, Detective Inspector Joona Linna with Sweden’s National Crime Force investigated the disappearance, but was never able to determine what happened. The official police verdict was that the children drowned in the river by their home, but Linna always suspected they had been victims of Jurek Walter, one of Sweden’s most notorious serial killer, who is currently serving a life sentence in a maximum-security psychiatric institution.

Detective Linna always suspected Jurek had an accomplice working with him, but was never able to prove it. Now that Mikael has escaped, he’s sure there was one, and that he’s out there and still has Felicia. He has to somehow get Jurek to talk and reveal where Felicia is being kept. His only chance is Saga Bauer, a beautiful female agent willing to go deep undercover as a patient in the institution to get to Jurek.

The Sandman is the fourth book Lars Kepler’s (pseudonym for husband-and-wife team Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril) series featuring Inspector Joona Linna, and I’m disappointed in myself for not knowing about the series until now. The book has some definite flaws, but I found myself not really caring about those, because I was enjoying the story so much. There are elements of the story that reminded me of Silence of the Lambs, and the chapters are so brief, it’s hard not to justify reading “just one more” before putting the book down.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles
462 pgs

Occasionally, a book comes out that I wouldn’t normally consider reading, but that for some reason or other, I seem fated to read. I’ll pick it up and read the summary on the flap, and think it looks interesting, but there are so many other books I want to read, I’ll never get around to it. So, I put it back down. But then the universe seems to start working on getting me to read it. I see it displayed prominently in the “Staff Picks” section in all the bookstores I enter, it’s recommended to me by multiple people, and I keep picking it back up when I see it in bookstores and rereading the description. When that happens, I eventually give in and buy it. A Gentleman in Moscow is one of those books.

Count Alexander Rostov has been sentenced to house arrest in Moscow’s esteemed Metropol hotel by the country’s new Soviet regime. His crime was writing a counter-revolutionary poem, and for his punishment, he’s branded a “Former Person” and sentenced to live out his days residing on the top floor of the hotel, in a room barely 100 feet square.

The book spans decades, and while one would think that telling a story that covers that much time, all within the walls of a single building would limit the story in some way, Towles manages to tell a story that is both grand and intimate at the same time.

Count Rostov is a fantastic character. He’s refined, intelligent, witty, and sensitive. He’s easy to like and I found myself quickly becoming fascinated by his life in the hotel, and the stories of his life prior to the Metropol. He creates a family within the hotel for himself, with members of the staff and those who come to stay at the hotel included. He experiences the love a father has for a child with a young girl who becomes his ward, all while living in a cramped room barely big enough for a bed and a desk.

I’ve learned to trust the universe’s advice when it wants me to read a book, and A Gentleman in Moscow is a perfect example of why.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


by Jeff Vandermeer
323 pgs

Jeff Vandermeer’s Borne is one of the stranger books among those in the dystopian fiction genre. It’s narrated by Rachel, a 28-year-old who lives with Wick in an old apartment building, filled with booby traps and disguised as a refuse heap. Rachel spends her days scavenging for scraps of food and supplies throughout the destroyed city they live in. She and Wick also live their lives hiding from Mord, a bear the size of a department store…who can fly.

One day, while scavenging, Rachel comes across a dark purple object about the size of her fist, and takes it back to her and Wick’s apartment. The object resembles a cross between a squid and a sea anemone. It can change color, starts to grow, begins to move, and one day…begins to speak. Rachel names it Borne and begins treating it like a pet. But Wick is suspicious of Borne. Small objects and even animals begin to disappear and Wick believes Borne is responsible.

He suspects Borne comes from the same place as Mord did, “the Company,” an enigmatic biotech company that filled the world with strange and bizarre products before going silent. But Borne is different than any other biotechnology they’ve come across before. It has the ability to learn and to transform itself into any object, living or non-living at will.

Vandermeer never explains how the world got to the state it’s in when his story starts. Readers should be prepared to have a lot of questions they’ll have go unanswered throughout the story. But if they can avoid getting hung up on those questions, they should enjoy the story for what it is, a bizarre and unsettling story about human and non-human intelligence and how far it could go.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Lost Order

by Steve Berry
493 pgs  (Cotton Malone series #12)

In Cotton Malone’s newest adventure, Steve Berry places him on the hunt to find billions of dollars in hidden gold coins. It’s rumored that an organization known as the Knights of the Golden Circle worked behind the scenes in the years prior to the Civil War to try to establish a separate country, amassing vast reserves of gold coins through bank and train robberies during the process. When the Civil War ended, with the country remaining intact, the vast reserves of gold disappeared.

As Cotton begins searching for the gold and learning of its history, he quickly learns that the Knights of the Golden Circle are still active. Sentinels have been watching over the gold and the clues to its whereabouts since the 19th century, and they’re willing to go to great lengths to protect it.

But that’s not the only thing the organization has been involved in. There’s a faction of the group that is actively working to bring about a radical change in the way the federal government operates. A change, that if successfully brought about, will dramatically shift the balance of power at the highest levels. It’s Cotton Malone’s friend and former POTUS, Danny Daniels, who becomes aware of their plans and must try to stop them.

The Lost Order is one of the better books in the Cotton Malone series, as of late. Like the other books, Berry takes a fascinating and obscure part of history, places it at the core of his story, and then writes a compelling thriller around it. But this time around, he also takes a deeper dive into Cotton’s background. That, along with the resurgent role of Danny Daniels, made the book a little more interesting.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Aeronaut's Windlass

by Jim Butcher
630 pgs  (The Cinder Spires series #1)

The Aeronaut's Windlass is the first book in Jim Butcher's new "futuristic-dystopian-steampunk" series. It takes place on a world in which humans live thousands of feet up in the air. They've built giant spires, which are a couple miles across and over 10,000 feet tall. Each spire is in and of itself an independent nation, with its own government, culture, and interests--interests which often end up conflicting with those of other spires.

Their technology is based on crystals, which are grown and used to provide electricity, power their weapons, and enable travel using impressive airships.

Captain Grimm is a privateer for Spire Albion, who sails his merchant airship Predator, ambushing airships from Spire Aurora, which is involved in a cold war with Spire Albion.

While transporting Gwendolyn Lancaster and Bridget Tagwynn, two young heiresses training to join the Spirearch guard, the Predator is ambushed by venomous creatures under the direction of Spire Aurora., and Captain Grimm soon finds himself and his crew in the middle of a cold war that just got much hotter.

This is the first book by Jim Butcher that I've read. I haven't read any of his Dresden Files series, which currently consists of more than a dozen books, and which I've been planning to eventually get around to. So I was excited to see he was starting a new series, one I could start reading at the same time he was writing it.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Monday, February 19, 2018


by Dan Brown
461 pgs  (Robert Langdon series #5)

Dan Brown is an author that people tend to have strong feelings about. Either they really, really like him, or they really, really hate him. Those who don't like him say his books all follow the same formula, and that all he's done since the success of The Da Vinci Code is repeat himself over and over again. I don't disagree with their criticisms. But I can't help it, I really, really like his books.

Edmund Kirsch is a scientist, an atheist, and a futurist, who has garnered world-wide recognition over the course of his life for his perfect record to date for predicting technological advances years before they're achieved. He also happens to be a former student of Robert Langdon.

As the book begins, Kirsch is days away from revealing his latest scientific discovery to the world. And he believes that when he does, it will destroy the core of every religion on earth, along with every believer's faith in a divine creator. He believes he's finally found the answer to the two questions: "Where did we come from?" and "Where are we going?"

But his announcement is cut short by an assassin sent to keep his discovery secret. It's up to Langdon and Ambra Vidal, the museum's curator to figure out what it was Kirsch had discovered, and make it known to the world, hopefully before the same man who killed Kirsch is able to stop them too.

Like him or not, it's hard to dispute Dan Brown's popularity. Origin is a great example of why I think his popularity is well deserved.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Impossible Fortress

by Jason Rekulak
285 pgs

Billy Marvin is a 14-year-old living in New Jersey with his mother in 1987. His mother works the late shift at the local grocery store, so Billy and his two friends Clark and Alf are able to hang out together late each night watching movies, playing games, and eating junk food.

When the latest issue of Playboy arrives at Zelinsky's Typewriters and Office Supplies, featuring Vanna White from "Wheel of Fortune," the three friends immediately begin planning "Operation Vanna." Their plan is to get a hold of a copy of the magazine, make photocopies of the pages featuring the professional letter-turner, and then sell them to kids at their school for a couple dollars each.

Their initial plans all fail, so they have to enlist the help of Tyler Bell, an older kid at their school, who helps them devise an elaborate scheme to break into the store at night to steal a copy. But in order for them to do so, Billy will need to become friends with Zelinsky's daughter and try to learn what the security code is to the store's alarm system.

The book is described as "A love letter to the 1980s," which probably explains why I enjoyed it as much as I did. Much like Stranger Things and Ready Player One, it's packed full of references to the '80s. From Vanna White and Phil Collins, to the Commodore 64 and Kramer vs. Kramer. But the nostalgia for that decade wasn't the only highlight of the book for me. I also really enjoyed the story. I found myself "stretching" out my lunch breaks each day, not wanting to put the book down.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆