Shelf Control #123: American Pacifica by Anna North

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.png

Title: American Pacifica
Author: Anna North
Published: 2011
Length: 294 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

America Pacifica is an island hundreds of miles off the coast of California, the only warm place left in a world in the grip of a new ice age. Darcy Pern is seventeen; her mother has gone missing, and she must uncover the truth about her disappearance–a quest that soon becomes an investigation into the disturbing origins of America Pacifica itself and its sinister and reclusive leader, a man known only as Tyson. America Pacifica invites comparison to the work of Margaret Atwood and China Mieville, to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for its the touching child-parent relationship, and to Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy for its implacable, determined central character.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy sometime in the year or so after the book’s release.

Why I want to read it:

I stumbled across a review for this book soon after the publication date, back in 2011, and something about the description of the story stayed in my head. Maybe at that point I hadn’t read quite so many end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it stories, but the synopsis sounded really intriguing, and made me want to learn more about the community and its leader. Even though this book has been on my shelves for way too may years, I’ve never been able to bring myself to donate it or give it away. I will read it one of these days!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 5/28/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova: Moving contemporary fiction about lives changed by ALS. My review is here.

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth: Domestic drama set in an Australian suburban neighborhood. My review is here.

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire: A ghost story from one of my favorite writers! The sequel comes out later this year, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next in the after-life of Rose Marshall, the ghostly prom girl who hitchhikes her way across highways, ghostroads, and between roadside diners everywhere.

In graphic novels, I read:

Runaways: Find Your Way Home by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka: Such fun! It’s great to return to the world of Runaways. The story is in great hands with Rainbow Rowell, picking back up with the characters after a few years and setting up new adventures.

Fresh Catch:

Two non-fiction books arrived this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Outsider by Stephen King: Just started! My library hold came in much sooner than expected, so it feels like a treat to be able to dive in this week.

Now playing via audiobook:

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: I’m really enjoying this non-fiction book which examines the phenomenon of public shaming. Ronson is terrific as a narrator.

Book group reads:

It feels repetitive to list these week after week… except I really am reading them week after week!

  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a group read of LJ&BotB, two chapters per week. The end is in sight!
  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… and we have a long way still to go.

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.

Isabelle Heatherington doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.

But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange’s compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won’t let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park – and returned home without her.

As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread – and they’ll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.

 

My Thoughts:

The Family Next Door is a quick read about a neighborhood teeming with secrets. The three women at the center of the story, Essie, Fran, and Ange, are all wives and mothers, and each has her own set of problems and worries that she keeps hidden away behind a facade of domestic bliss. It’s Isabelle’s arrival in the neighborhood that kicks off the cascade of revelations, as secrets come out and lives are upended.

The book is fast-paced, and while some of the secrets may be simpler to guess, the big reveal at the end is shocking and very unexpected. I enjoyed the characters, although overall the tone of the book was a bit too Desperate Housewives for my taste.

For readers who enjoy dramas about marriage, family, lies, and life-long secrets, this will make a great choice for summer beach reading.

Interested in this author? Check out my review of other books by Sally Hepworth:
The Things We Keep
The Mother’s Promise

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The details:

Title: The Family Next Door
Author: Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: March 6, 2018
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Contemporary fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Take A Peek Book Review: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.

 

My Thoughts:

I’ve read several other books by Lisa Genova, and in all, she finds a way to not only spotlight drastic medical conditions but to show the human impact of people dealing with diagnosis and life-altering diseases.

In Every Note Played, she showcases the horror of a life irreparably changed by ALS. Using both Richard and Karina’s perspectives, we’re led through the stages of deterioration, each with its own sets of loss, frustration, humiliation, and increasing dependency. Truly, this is an eye-opening book in terms of what it feels like to lose ability and control, as well as what it feels like to be the witness to a process that can’t be stopped.

At the same time, I didn’t feel particularly connected to either of the main characters as people, and didn’t become emotionally invested in their complicated relationship or inner lives. While I was fascinated by the medical aspects of Richard’s condition, the story of the failed marriage and finding peace with one another after a lifetime of resentment mostly fell flat for me.

I was never bored reading this book, but something about it didn’t quite resonate. It’s definitely worth reading, and I learned quite a bit about ALS from it, but it lacked the emotional impact I’ve experienced with other books by this talented author.

Interested in this author? Check out my review of Inside the O’Briens.

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The details:

Title: Every Note Played
Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: Scout Press
Publication date: March 20, 2018
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a FLYING READER!

 

Actually, it’s just me, flying round trip cross-country and reading lots of books along the way!

I did a quick there-and-back-again trip across the country to attend my wonderful stepson’s medical school graduation. *bursting with pride*

Man, do I read a lot when I fly. I loaded up with some Netflix downloads, but ignored all media in favor of plowing through some books. I caught up on all my group reads, and also read a few novels, and basically had a ridiculously fun time ignoring the world around me and devoting myself to my Kindle. I ended up in a race against the pilot — my Kindle showed me I had 20 minutes left in my book, and the pilot kept announcing how many minutes to landing. Would I make it? Would I finish the story before the wheels met the ground?

Yup, I did. With five minutes to spare!

Who says flying has to be boring?

Shelf Control #122: Symbiont by Mira Grant

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.png

Title: Symbiont (Parasitology, #2)
Author: Mira Grant
Published: 2014
Length: 518 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

THE ENEMY IS INSIDE US.

The SymboGen-designed parasites were created to relieve humanity of disease and sickness. But the implants in the majority of the world’s population began attacking their hosts, turning them into a ravenous horde.

Now those who do not appear to be afflicted are being gathered for quarantine as panic spreads, but Sal and her companions must discover how the parasites are taking over their hosts, what their eventual goal is and how they can be stopped.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy when the book came out in 2014.

Why I want to read it:

Oh, I’m so torn about this book! I loved the first book in the series (Parasite) — so gross and so good! But somehow, when I got Symbiont, I just couldn’t muster the interest to keep going with the overarching story. Mira Grant is an absolute fave of mine, so how can I own books by her and not read them? I’m afraid I’ll have to start over again from the beginning if I want book #2 to make any sense to me at all. Should I? Is it worth it? I’m not sure how I can be a legit fan and not read this trilogy!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 5/21/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

 

I may be a little absent this week. I’m flying to the East Coast for a few days to celebrate a family graduation. Exciting times!

 

 

What did I read during the last week?

How To Walk Away by Katherine Center: Contemporary fiction with romance, tragedy, and even a little humor. My review is here.

Surface Tension by Mike Mullin: Action-packed YA fiction. My review is here.

How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger: A super-cute novella! My review is here.

In audiobooks, I finished:

Only Human (The Themis Files, #3) by Sylvain Neuvel: The fantastic wrap-up of an amazingly great trilogy. Check out my review, here.

Fresh Catch:

I didn’t buy any new books this week, although I did get this from the library. Looks like so much fun!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

I’m catching up on ARCs this week. My two priorities are:

  • The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
  • Every Note Played by Lisa Genove
Now playing via audiobook:

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: Ronson is a fascinating writer, and does an excellent job of narrating his own works. I’m only a few chapters into this look at public shaming, but so far, it’s oddly compelling. I really enjoyed listening to The Butterfly Effect (about the unintended consequences of the availability of free porn) by Ronson last year.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

It feels repetitive to list these week after week… except I really am reading them week after week!

  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a group read of LJ&BotB, two chapters per week. If you’d like to join in, ask me how!
  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… and we have a long way still to go.

So many books, so little time…

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Novella Review: How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger

 

Guilty of an indiscretion? Time to marry a werewolf.

WEREWOLVES

The monsters left Faith ruined in the eyes of society, so now they’re her only option. Rejected by her family, Faith crosses the Atlantic, looking for a marriage of convenience and revenge.

But things are done differently in London. Werewolves are civilized. At least they pretend to be.

AMERICANS

Backward heathens with no culture, Major Channing has never had time for any of them. But there’s something special about Faith. Channing finds himself fighting to prove himself and defend his species. But this werewolf has good reason not to trust human women.

Even if they learn to love, can either of them forgive?

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Parasol Protectorate series comes a stand alone romance set in the same universe. Look out for appearances from favorite characters and the serious consequences of unwarranted geology.

Another adorable and slightly steamy romantic adventure from the talented Gail Carriger!

When a young American lady of good standing is indiscreet, kind parent retire her quietly to the country with a maiden aunt and a modest stipend. Faith’s parents decided to marry her off to a werewolf.

Faith Wigglesworth is an American young woman in disgrace, whose absolutely horrible parents are shipping her off to London to land a werewolf husband, hoping to both be rid of her and to subject her to the humiliation they believe she deserves.

A werewolf was lower than a Californian, all things considered — rough rural hillbillies with too much hair. And open shirt collars. And no table manners.

Major Channing is instantly entranced by Faith’s brash American manners, her ability to stand up for herself, and those amazing blue eyes of hers. What follows is a playful, tempestuous courtship, as each must learn to trust enough to share and then put aside the painful secrets of their pasts. At the same time, there’s instant chemistry and heat between Faith and Channing, and sparks fly. Channing’s Alpha wants him to find happiness and to treat Faith as she should be treated, and Faith yearns to find someone to love, someone to enjoy intimacy with, and a place to belong and be herself.

This is a charming novella that works as a stand-alone, although prior experience with Gail Carriger’s steampunk/supernatural world certainly is helpful (and possibly even essential). I love everything about her books, and this piece fits nicely into the world she’s created, featuring a lovely story all its own as well as a chance to spend time once again with favorite characters like Biffy and Lyall.

A must-read for Carriger fans!
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The details:

Title: How to Marry a Werewolf (Claw & Courtship, #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Gail Carriger LLC
Publication date: May 13, 2018
Length: 196 pages
Genre: Supernatural/steampunk/romance
Source: Purchased

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Audiobook Review: Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel (The Themis Files, #3)

 

 

In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other.

I have loved The Themis Files books since day one, so it’s probably no surprise that I really and truly loved this concluding volume as well. In the first two Themis Files books, we see the discovery of a giant robot, which is in truth an alien artifact, leading to an alien invasion that threatens the survival of all humankind. Here, in Only Human, we find out how it all works out.

The previous book, Waking Gods, ends on a cliffhanger. With the immediate threat removed, Vincent, Rose, and Eva are celebrating their victory, when they suddenly realize they’re not on Earth any longer. As Only Human opens, we learn that our Earthlings have been transported to the alien home planet, which finally gets a name – Esat Ekt. And there they stay, learning the Ekt language, culture, and sense of morality, with no means of going home.

The Ekt’s principal code of morality is non-interference. They will not allow themselves to alter the course of any other species’ progress, development, or evolution. If a species is meant to go extinct, the Ekt will not interfere. And if a species, such as the human race, develops in a way that they should not have because of Ekt interference in the past, then all signs of that interference must be eliminated. Of course, the Ekt didn’t mean to commit mass murder, as they did in book #2, and here in book #3, the people of Esat Ekt are deeply embroiled in a reexamination of their non-interference policy after realizing their responsibility for the deaths of tens of millions on Earth.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, in the years following the great battle which concluded in the previous book, human interactions have changed dramatically. One of the giant robots ended up left behind, then seized as property of the United States, which then used it to rewrite the geopolitical lines of the planet. When Rose, Vincent, and Eva return almost a decade later aboard Themis, the Russians want the robot — badly — and will do just about anything to get it and its pilots under their control, in an effort to reshape the world’s balance of power.

As with the earlier books, Only Human is told via interview transcripts and journal entries, with the entries from the humans on Esat Ekt interwoven with the entries from Earth upon the gang’s arrival back on their home planet all those years later. Through these entries, we learn about life on Esat Ekt — the politics, the participatory democracy, the casual bigotry, and the way a free society can have hidden biases and injustices. Meanwhile, we see the ongoing complicated dynamics between the main characters. The highlight is the relationship between Vincent and his daughter Eva. Only 10  years old when they were whisked off to an alien planet, by the start of the action in this book Eva is a 19-year-old young woman who is strong-willed and ready to jump into action to pursue justice, never mind her own safety. Naturally, she and Vincent are on a collision course, and when their conflict finally comes to a head, it’s spectucular.

There are so many memorable characters in these books. An old favorite, Mr. Burns, returns in Only Human, and I also was really fascinated by the American-raised Russian agent Katherine, whose Americanisms and snark hide a truly terrifying ruthless streak.

The audiobook version is amazing, performed by a full cast. In fact, while I had the e-book ARC for some time before the official release date, I chose to wait until the Audible edition became available because I really wanted to experience the story in that way, as I did with the first two books. The voice actors are terrific. I love Vincent, with his French-Canadian accent and excitable nature; Rose’s calm demeanor, Mr. Burns’s humor, and — big treat here — the Ekt characters as well, speaking both a mangled sort of English as well as their own native language. My only complaint is that Eva’s accent has completely changed from the previous book, and it was weird and distracting at first. Oh well. I got over it. As a whole, the audiobook experience is a delight.

Let’s pause here to admire author Sylvain Neuvel’s fantastic use of his linguistics background to create a language for the Ekt that’s weird and alien and sounds just awesome to listen to. I loved the words and phrases, and very much enjoyed learning a yokits swear word in Ekt.

Needless to say, I highly recommend the Themis Files series. If you enjoy audiobooks, absolutely listen to these! The production is top-notch and really added to my enjoyment. But even without the audio, it’s an incredible story, so well written, full of sci-fi adventure and surprises — but even more so, full of human emotion and heart, which are what truly makes this story work.

I really do hope that the author will choose to write more in the Themis-verse… but if not, I’ll still want to read whatever he writes next.

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The details:

Title: Only Human (The Themis Files, #3)
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator: Full cast production
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication date: May 1, 2018
Length (print): 336 pages
Length (audiobook): 8 hours, 43 minutes
Genre: Science fiction
Source: E-book review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley; audiobook downloaded via Audible

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Book Review: Surface Tension by Mike Mullin

 

After witnessing an act of domestic terrorism while training on his bike, Jake is found near death, with a serious head injury and unable to remember the plane crash or the aftermath that landed him in the hospital.

A terrorist leader’s teenage daughter, Betsy, is sent to kill Jake and eliminate him as a possible witness. When Jake’s mother blames his head injury for his tales of attempted murder, he has to rely on his girlfriend, Laurissa, to help him escape the killers and the law enforcement agents convinced that Jake himself had a role in the crash.

Mike Mullin, author of the Ashfall series, delivers a gripping story with memorable characters and all-too-real scenarios.

Surface Tension is a high-action suspense thriller about a 17-year-old boy, Jake, who stumbles into a domestic terror attack by accident — but because of a traumatic brain injury and corrupt law officials, isn’t believed when he tells his story. Thanks to his remarkably loyal girlfriend Laurissa, he persists in trying to uncover the truth while staying a few steps ahead of both the terrorists and the FBI agent who want to see him dead.

Meanwhile, the lead terrorist’s daughter Betsy is embroiled in the attack and the follow-up attempts on Jake’s life, but as she learns unpleasant truths about her father, she too realizes that he and his organization must be stopped.

Mike Mullin, who wrote the amazing Ashfall trilogy, excels at quick bursts of action and leaving the reader panting for more at the end of each chapter. This is a hard book to put down once you start. At the same time, I felt that the credibility of the plot got thinner and thinner as the story moved forward, until the climax and resolution seemed basically unbelievable. Add to that a tacked-on final chapter that makes it clear that this story isn’t actually over, and I wound up feeling somehow underwhelmed by the book as a whole.

It’s a fast, entertaining read, but the plot doesn’t really hold together in a way that makes a whole lot of sense. I stayed interested all the way through, but if there is a sequel, I won’t be bothering with it.

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The details:

Title: Surface Tension
Author: Mike Mullin
Publisher: Tanglewood
Publication date: May 8, 2018
Length: 350 pages
Genre: Young adult
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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