Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dead Ringers (Christopher Golden)

I gave Christopher Golden's Snowblind an average rating a few years ago, saying that it was very reminiscent of Stephen King, so if you're a King fan, you'll probably really like it. While I didn't love his newest, Dead Ringers, Golden really threw me for a loop on the last page, which raised his rating by a full point.

It all begins with Tess Devlin running into her ex, Nick, on a city street. But Nick completely ignores her, and when she contacts him to yell about it, Nick swears that wasn't him since he's in another state. Seeing their "doubles" begins to happen to a lot of people she knows (including herself), and they begin to realize the connection they all have. Why are these imitators out there, what do they want with them, and most importantly, how can they stop the malice they bring from ruining (or ending) their lives?

Just as in Snowblind, parts of Dead Ringers do border on the ridiculous. I realize that this is not the most realistic story, but King's gift is that he can make it SEEM like what he writes can actually happen. However, Golden's plot is well developed and parts of Dead Ringers are really suspenseful. So if you can suspend your disbelief just a little, he'll take you on a scary ride.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon (Ed Caesar)

Many of us have never run a marathon and never will.  Wrapping my head around the concept of finishing a marathon, let alone doing it in two hours, is almost unfathomable.  Ed Caesar tackles this concept in Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon.  The two-hour marathon is something now obtainable according to scientists and is a goal for the elite marathoners of the world, who Caesar chronicles as they go through training for several races around the world each year.

Caesar talks about the world of marathon running and how preparation has changed over time as record times have slowly come down and the two hour barrier, once thought to be unobtainable, has approached like a runner approaching the finish line after a long race.  The book talks about those advances from both the scientific perspective as well as ground truth, capturing the stories of runners and the advances in everything from clothing the runners wear to the training they participate in as part of the ritual.

The book reads well and provides those who are into running a nice background into the advances of the sport.  It likely will not get you inspired to go out and run in New York, Philadelphia, or any other marathon any time soon.  However, Caesar smartly advocates how running is one of the few sports where rich and poor can come together and run the same race and how those from dire economic circumstances can rise to the top of their sport.  Even if you have no desire to lace up your sneakers and run, if you're interested in how the human body can adapt and how we can continue to break records in a sport, it's worth your time and effort to read Two Hours.


Monday, November 9, 2015

The Life We Bury (Allen Eskens)

When I began Allen Eskens’s The Life We Bury, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.  The premise was exciting, the characters interesting, and the writing superb.  As the events started racing to the climax, however, everything seemed to slow down, with the main characters making dumb decisions that would, of course, put their lives in extreme danger.

Joe Talpert hasn’t had the easiest life co-existing with his mother, who has been abusive to both him and his autistic brother, Jeremy.  Trying to better himself, he attends college and needs to obtain a subject for his biographical paper.  Thinking outside the box, he decides to go with Carl Iverson, a convicted murderer who has served decades in prison, but is now dying of cancer in a nursing home.  As he interviews Carl (and his friend), and unravels his story, he doubts whether Carl ever committed this grisly murder after all.

As Joe and his eventual girlfriend, Lila, piece together the puzzle, they begin to do things over and over again that aren’t exactly smart.  This brings The Life We Bury down, as I spent more time mentally yelling at the characters instead of being engrossed in their story. This results in a predictable ending, but getting there was somewhat fun.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Lake House (Kate Morton)

I’ve been a huge Kate Morton fan for a long time and have introduced quite a lot of people to her books.  I always look forward to her novels, as they’re perfect for cozying up to a fire with a cup of tea and just getting lost in the stories.  While her latest book, The Lake House, wasn’t my favorite and had quite the unrealistic ending, it definitely had a lot of steam getting to that point.

Due to overstepping her bounds, Sadie Sparrow, a detective in the police force, has been forced into taking a little “vacation” in Cornwall, England.  It is here during a run that she comes across an old estate.  The reader learns that during World War I, this house was the home of the Edavanes; Alice Edavane is a well-known author now in her eighties who is looking for answers into the long-ago disappearance of her little brother, Theo.  During a midsummer party, Theo vanished, never to be seen or heard from again.  What happened to him?  Were their parents, Eleanor and Anthony Edavane, somehow involved in his disappearance?

One of the things that make Kate Morton’s books so interesting is that their large houses can almost be seen as major characters.  Little Theo seemingly vanished in one of these houses, and Morton goes back and forth in time to tell his story.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work as well in The Lake House as it did in her other novels; some parts seem slow, and I kept hoping for Morton to pick up the pace a bit.  When she does, the plot races to the end quickly, and all the puzzle pieces fit together nicely.  However, the ending is a bit implausible and a little disappointing after all that work reading the book.  Don’t let that deter you from reading The Lake House – but if you’ve never read Kate Morton, you might want to start with one of her earlier, and in my opinion, better books.