Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation is a sci-fi/supernatural/horror novel by Jeff VanderMeer, published by FSG Originals in February of 2014. The other two novels in the Southern Reach Trilogy were both released in 2014 as well.

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)

A journal belonging to a woman who was part of the twelfth expedition to mysterious and dangerous Area X–a place where no one has ever truly come back alive from–is found by an unexpectant reader. Myself. I personally adore novels written in the form of a journal and Annihilation only served to reinforce that adoration.

The main character, a biologist, set out to Area X with a psychologist, surveyor, archeologist, and lingiust. They’re charged with exploring the walled off Area X but things don’t go the way any of them planned.

With odd events and an inexplicable underground tower that does not appear on their map, the disjointed group has all of Area X pushing against them. Unnatural occurrences and strange behaviors from the other group members test the biologist and push her to find out what’s really going on in this secluded area.

I had heard a lot of hype about this book–that it was a hugely promising work of science fiction. I’m not sure that’s true, but only because it’s so hard to put this novel into a genre. I suppose it’s science fiction–there is science in it. The biologist at least keeps her head and takes samples. Did I also mention that the novel sneaks in some humor, too? The biologist’s dry sense of humor thrilled me and kept me interested–although it was the mystery of Area X that was the true star of the book, which gave it more of a thriller vibe than a sci-fi one.

VanderMeer expertly weaves features of these various genres into a chilling scientific account of a haunting journey into a government cordoned area. Overall, I would recommend Annihilation for those looking for supernatural horror, mystery, or an interest in journaling. It’s a quick read with a bit of a cliffhanger, just enough to garner interest in Authority, the novel’s sequel.

 

TITLE: Annihilation
———————————————-
AUTHOR: Jeff VanderMeer
———————————————–
PAGES: 209
———————————————–
ALSO WROTE: City of Saints and Madmen, The Steampunk Bible
———————————————-
SORT OF LIKE: House of Leaves, The Island of Dr. Moreau
———————————————-
FIRST LINE: The tower, which was not supposed to be there, plunges into the earth in a place just before the black pine forest begins to give way to swamp and then the reeds and wind-gnarled trees of the marsh flats.

Grand Returns

I realized the other day how long it had been since I’d written a review when I got turned down for an ARC of a book. On Netgalley, that has never been the case before and they suggested updating my blog.

After getting a new job, moving, and trying to settle in to a new routine, reading had been the last thing on my mind. But now that I’m settled… I’ve jumped into the “start a million new books” phase. I just started reading The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, which is the excellent sequel to AnnihilationThe Way of Kings by a favorite of mine–Brandon Sanderson, and I’ve about finished Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds which rides on the blazing space cowboy trail left by Firefly. 

Devoting time to reading has been so refreshing… Damn, I just love a good book. Here’s to many more in both of our futures.

 

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian is a 369 page science fiction novel by Andy Weir. It was originally self published, then picked up for publication by Crown in February of 2014.

The MartianThe book begins with Mark Watney writing in his log that while his team (of astronauts on Mars) thought he died in a windstorm, he actually survived and now is living alone on Mars. As an engineer and botanist, Mark devises many different ways to extend his survival on Mars–all the while trying to figure out how to contact his team or Earth, both of whom believe him to be dead and his mission to be scrapped. The plot revolves around his triumphs and failures on Mars and his ingenuity as a lonely man and only resident Martian.

This book defines a roller coaster ride of emotions. Half the book is full of elated moments where Mark Watney is definitely going to make it back to Earth and the other half is full of despair where Mark Watney is definitely not going to make it back to Earth. I don’t label many books as “page-turners” (because don’t all good books require you to turn the page?), but this novel held my heart in its palm and repeatedly squeezed and relaxed its grip while I devoured every word.

I personally love epistolary novels, which is one reason I was thrilled to find out this book was more than just a pretty sci-fi book about Mars. Along with diary entries, Weir includes glimpses into NASA’s panic on Earth and Watney’s team’s despair at losing their colleague and friend. Watney is a darkly funny character who made me chuckle on numerous occasions. Along with being realistically morbid, his science brings another realistic aspect to the novel.

The Martian is clearly a labor of love for Weir, and it really shows. It is a fantastic book. Absolutely one of my favorite books that I read in 2014. If you like sci-fi, survival stories, nature stuff (Mars has its own unique nature), or just like a morbid joke, I recommend this novel.

 

TITLE: The Martian
———————————————-
AUTHOR: Andy Weir
———————————————–
PAGES: 369
———————————————–
ALSO WROTE: The Egg
———————————————-
SORT OF LIKE: Apollo 13 ; Castaway
———————————————-
FIRST LINE: LOG ENTRY: SOL 6

I’m pretty much fucked.

Cover Reveal: Paradise Rot by Larry N. Weiner

Paradise Rot, Island Trilogy, Book 1, Larry N. Weiner’s first novel, was originally self published. To celebrate being re-published by Booktrope Publishing, the novel gets a new cover! It looks pretty fantastic, in my opinion. I will be reading and reviewing the book (description below).

If you’d like to enter for an ebook copy (10 lucky winners on that one) plus a grandprize Amazon gift card, ebook copy of Paradise Rot, Kenneth G. Bennet’s Exodus 2022 and The Guide, and more check out the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Displaying Paradise Rot by Larry Weiner Cover Reveal.jpg

Kyle Brightman–late of the advertising industry and soon-to-be-late of the 5th floor psych ward–has a job offer he can’t refuse. A new resort in the Caribbean is looking for an art director. Kyle soon finds himself on the Isle of St. Agrippina working alongside a beautiful copywriter with an icy (perhaps undead) handshake. Questions arise: Why does the resort management team sport spray-on tans in the Bahamas? How can the resort offer such cheap vacation packages? What does one do with vats of Astroglide? To get the answers, Kyle must first navigate a series of wildly unpredictable events with a cast of even more wildly unpredictable characters, including a seductress jungle assassin, her partially paralyzed talking Chihuahua, an Ivy League Rastafarian seaplane captain, Kyle’s ex-psych ward roommate, a former Haliburton mercenary, and a French tavern owner with a fondness for goats, all set to the greatest hits of the 70’s. Pablo Cruise never felt so right.

Larry Weiner is the author of PARADISE ROT (BOOK ONE) and ONCE AGAIN, WITH BLOOD (BOOK TWO). Larry earned a degree in film from California State University, Los Angeles and was an award-winning art director. And then he got the heck out of Dodge (advertising) and decided he was better at fiction for the greater good (entertainment/deep thoughts) than fiction to make people buy stuff they don’t need (advertising/shallow consumerism). He lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, two kids and a gaggle of animals.

Praise for ISLAND TRILOGY:

PARADISE ROT (BOOK ONE) “Weiner writes with a smart, fun, electric style in the vein of Dave Eggers or Chuck Palahniuk.” –Kenneth G. Bennett, author of EXODUS 2022 (Coming Spring 2015) ONCE AGAIN, WITH BLOOD (BOOK TWO) “It’s a maniacal thrill ride of a literary experience, with trenchant observations, wicked one-liners, screwball characters and twisted takes on pop culture smacking you in the face with impunity. It’s gonzo, and galling, and glorious, and once you take that first hit, you’ll only want more.” —Craig Lancaster, best-selling author of 600 Hours of Edward, Edward Adrift and The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter

Connect with Larry Weiner:

http://www.larrynweiner.com/

Twitter @LarryNWeiner

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/larrynweiner

larrywnr2@gmail.com

Another Year

I have been falling terribly behind in my reviews (from 2014)! But I am still reading diligently. I probably won’t be reviewing all the books I read this year, but I will go back and review a few of them. (The Martian by Andy Weir is coming up soon.)

In 2014, I surpassed my reading goal of 60 books by 26. That’s right, I read 86 books last year! Okay, a few of them were graphic novels–no regrets. I devoured the Sandman series–10 graphic novels written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by many fine artists. I loved the series and the Sandman himself. Gaiman blew my mind with a lot of the clever meta narrative and the entire Dream landscape was just fantastic.

I also read the Saga series (only four volumes out right now) by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. It’s a sort of Romeo and Juliet in space/the future. Very cool.

One quick series I read in 2014 was the Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Set in the future, it’s about a society of people who have been turned “pretty” by the government. Their bodies are adjusted to be average and pretty when you turn 16, but it’s not just people’s bodies–it’s also their minds. This was a great social commentary on perceptions of beauty and worth. It’s a four book trilogy (strange, I know) and is a strong representation of excellent YA.

I attended a convention (my first) called CONvergence in the summer of 2014, and it was absolutely amazing. I got my book, The Lives of Taosigned by Wesley Chu and picked up its sequel, The Deaths of Tao. These books are about an alien species that crash land on Earth and inhabit human and animal bodies to fuel their epic war. It’s sort of like The Host with a martial aspect. I hope to read the sequel sometime this year.

In 2014, I also graduated from college and got a job. SO we shall see how much reading time in I have in 2015 once I start working 8-5 every day. My goal for this year is 72 books. I have a few books I’d like to read… but if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear what you’ll be reading or what I should be reading this year.

I am excited to read some new stuff and look forward to a year in reading!

 

The City by Dean Koontz

The City is a 398 page sort of paranormal fiction by Dean Koontz, published by Bantam in July 2014. I received an ARC from Netgalley for review.

The CityThe story centers on a young boy, Jonah Kirk Bledsoe (plus about 7 more musician’s names in between) and his experience with music, adult friends, a deadbeat father, and a spiritual embodiment of the city, known as Miss Pearl. Additional plot focuses on a bank heist, some murders, and some “intrigue.” Jonah, as a young, black piano player, idolizes many famous black musicians of his day (the 1960s). While some of the name drops of musicians and songs were an interesting add, it often didn’t feel like it had an impact on the story. More

Totally Unrelated: On Writing

I am currently taking a class called Theory and Practice of Writing. Our first assignment, besides reading, was to write a Literacy Autobiography. This is an approach to understand how we learned to write, why we write like we do, and really just learn about our writing. I took a few examples from learning various writing approaches and talked about my how my need for perfectionism in writing really stunted my desire, and therefore ability, to write. While this has almost nothing to do with book reviews, I wanted to share my story with you.

How did you learn to write? Do you remember? I had to ask my mom about it, because I have poor memory of my childhood. Ask your parents, or elementary teachers, because the response could be really interesting. Either let me know in the comments or keep the information to yourself. Anywho, here’s my paper. More

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of Thieves, published by Del Ray in October 2013, is the third book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence, written by Scott Lynch. BEWARE, there be spoilers here. If you haven’t read the first two, I would recommend either not reading this review or not caring about spoilers.

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard, #3)

The main plot of the novel deals with Locke, who was poisoned at the end of book two, and Jean trying anything and everything to find a cure to the poison. Awesomely, they turn to the dangerous and exciting Bondsmagi to help cure him–in exchange for a political stint attempting to keep their government power. So, while the magic and Bondsmagi are cool, the political aspect is less interesting, except, of course, for their silly and dangerous shenanigans keeping things interesting. More

Will Not Attend by Adam Resnick

Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation by Adam Resnick (an Emmy Award-winning writer for NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman), published by Blue Rider Press in May 2014, is a 272 page humorous memoir of sorts. I received a copy of the book from the Goodreads First Reads program. While a review isn’t mandatory, of course I’m pleased to write one.

Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and IsolationThis book is exactly what it says it is: lively stories of detachment and isolation. Resnick takes the reader through “chapters” of short narratives about times in his life where he has been expected to be social, and either outright refused or hilariously failed. I learned more about his father than I expected, though–a strong, silent type that would get outrageously pissed off if you breathed the wrong way or made too much noise. More

Mini Reviews – British Novels Part 2

This is the second part to my reviews from the 20th Century British Novels class I took this semester. Here’s part 1. I read a lot of books for class this semester and really fell behind on reviewing them. Considering it has been a while since I read most of these books, I thought I would just do some mini reviews to round out the semester.

All books chosen were either Man Booker Prize winners or shortlisters. More

Exodus 2022 by Kenneth G. Bennett

Exodus 2022 is an eco sci-fi thriller (seriously defying some genres) novel written by Kenneth G. Bennett, published by Booktrope Publishing in May 2014. I received a paper copy of the book through Novel Publicity, thanks to reviewing Bennett’s earlier novel, The Gaia Wars The plot of the novel is summed up pretty well (a spoiler-free teaser, anyway) in the synopsis:

EXODUS2022 cover artJoe Stanton is in agony. Out of his mind over the death of his young daughter. Or so it seems. Unable to contain his grief, Joe loses control in public, screaming his daughter’s name and causing a huge scene at a hotel on San Juan Island in Washington State. Thing is, Joe Stanton doesn’t have a daughter. Never did. And when the authorities arrive they blame the 28-year-old’s outburst on drugs. What they don’t yet know is that others up and down the Pacific coast—from the Bering Sea to the Puget Sound—are suffering identical, always fatal mental breakdowns. With the help of his girlfriend—Joe struggles to unravel the meaning of the hallucination destroying his mind. As the couple begins to perceive its significance—and Joe’s role in a looming global calamity— they must also outwit a billionaire weapons contractor bent on exploiting Joe’s newfound understanding of the cosmos, and outlast the time bomb ticking in Joe’s brain.

I read one review that mentioned this Dean Koontz-esque set up drew them in. If I had any inkling this book would have been Dean Koontz-esque, I probably wouldn’t even have picked it up. Though I loved Koontz in high school, after reading a number of his novels, I realized he writes in a hugely formulaic way, and Exodus 2022 is anything but formulaic or predictable. It was nice to break out of reading YA for this novel and to enjoy the constant surprises and unexpected plot turns. I haven’t read much eco sci-fi, but after this, I think I’ll start seeking it out. Bennett’s science in this book is beautiful, and his exploration of the world and the creatures that inhabit it just wowed me. More

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars is a young adult romance novel loosely based on Esther Earl Grace–a young girl suffering from metastasized papillary thyroid cancer. It is a 318 page book published by Dutton Books in January of 2012. I got my ebook copy when it was on sale a while back intending to read it sometime in the future, and my roommate had it on her list as well, so it made our summer reading list

The Fault in Our Stars is fiction based on a nonfictional girl with cancer. Cancer girl meets cancer boy at cancer support group and cancer sparks fly aided by “Cancer Perks.” Cancer boy, aka Augustus Waters, has osteosarcoma and only one leg. Augustus and Esther Hazel Grace Lancaster, 17 and 16 respectively, have a cute little romp being cancer-y and afraid of falling for each other because of it. More

Mini Reviews – British Novels

I read a lot of books for class this semester and really fell behind on reviewing them. Considering it has been a while since I read most of these books, I thought I would just do some mini reviews to round out the semester.

This session is about my 20th Century British Novels Class. All books chosen were either Man Booker Prize winners or shortlisters. We tweeted #BritishNovels during class of fun quotes, ideas, etc. The tweets are probably gone by now, but this was a fun and interesting way to shake the class up (it was a three-hour-long night class). I’ll make this a two-parter, because we read eight books. I’ll just do three in this review (considering the fourth novel we read was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro) and four in the next. More

Found: Religious Advert

photo 1 (1)I actually have no idea what book I found this in. I got the book in my sophomore year in college. So that means in 2012 I found an advert for a 2004 Christian something or other that was to meet at a flagpole.

This image reads,

SEE YOU AT THE POLE 9.15.2004
ascend
CLEAN HANDS. PURE HEART.

 

photo 2 (1)

 

 

This side says,

See You at the Pole
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

your school. your flagpole. you.

 

ascend
CLEAN HANDS. PURE HEART.

 

“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands
and a pure heart. . .”
Psalm 24:3-4

I think it’s pretty amusing that I found a religious advert considering I’m not remotely religious. I’m not too surprised that I found it at Wartburg, however, as it is ELCA affiliated. Another interesting find!

Summer Reading

This summer (starting early May), a few friends and I plan to devour a long list of books. While we all have a few we’re not going to read, a few extras we plan to read, and therefore have an individual list, we will mostly read the same books. We’ll be tweeting about the books (#BookedIt / #bookclub), possibly adding some Youtube videos to the Booktube section, etc.

And of course, I’ll be reviewing a good majority of the books. So I thought I would throw out an invitation to join us. If you would like to join in the reading of the books, they will be updated regularly on my “Currently Contemplating” widgets and posts. I’ve already read some of these, but I’ll either be rereading them or just participating in discussion.

The list is made up of some YA, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. I’ll definitely be reading Republic of Thieves early on, because I’m going to CONvergence in MN in July, and Scott Lynch will be there! I also may reread something by Emma Newman, or continue her series, The Split Worlds, in hope that she’ll be there, too.  Here’s the list:

  1. Infinite Jest* by David Foster Wallace
  2. Exodus 2022 by Kenneth G. Bennett
  3. Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation by Adam Resnick
  4. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
  5. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  6. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
  7. Between Two Thorns/Any Other Name by Emma Newman
  8. Nothing But Flowers: Tales of Post-Apocalyptic Love edited by Jodi Cleghorn, with a story by Emma Newman
  9. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  10. London Falling by Paul Cornell
  11. Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (My goal is to finish the last 200 pages, which I got stuck on a year or two ago)
  12. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  13. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  14. Legend by Maria Lu
  15. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
  16. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  17. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  18. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  19. Among Others by Jo Walton
  20. The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
  21. Wool by Hugh Howey
  22. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  23. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
  24. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  25. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  26. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
  27. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  28. Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
  29. Light Boxes by Shane Jones
  30. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  31. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  32. The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  33. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee
  34. Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson
  35. Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra
  36. Green Rider by Kristen Britain

*To be read ~ 15-20 pages a day due to massive length and intellectual demands.

We are constantly updating the list, so this is just a temporary one. I will probably add a new post each month updating the order/number of books for the projected month. If you want to read any of these books to join in on the discussion, you are more than welcome!

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