The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North

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Claire keeps one-upping herself with each new book and its unique plot. This time around we find our story revolves around a young woman named Hope. Hope is unique in the sense that when she was 16 people started to forget her. Now stay with me, for this does sound strange but for some reason, people that meet Hope are unable to make long term memories of her, so pretty much as soon as they look away they forget all about her. It really serves the story that Claire doesn’t try to explain how or why this occurs. The downside to this unique ability is the loneliness, Hope can’t have friends as they just forget about you and her family has no clue who she is, Fortunately, the story doesn’t harp on this too much but it does focus a lot on her loneliness but it isn’t an overly emotional book thankfully.

From this unique concept, a story is born. Imagine what you could get away with if people forgot who you were as soon as they can’t see you. Walk out of a restaurant without paying, go on a massive shopping spree, Rob a bank. Fortunately, Hope chooses a more interesting choice and becomes a Jewel Thief. It is in the process of stealing some jewels that the plot thickens when a woman in the same hotel commits suicide which brings to Hopes attention a social media app called Perfection.

Perfection is control, that pretty much sums it up. The app “suggests” to you what to eat, who to be friends with, what to wear, locations for holidays and then rewards you for doing them. It’s an advertisers dream, not to mention that it’s also linked to your planner, bank accounts and every aspect of your life. It’s truly a creepy big brother for the 21st century.

This app becomes the focus of Hopes anger and where our story really heats up. I really liked this story, even though I found it difficult to relate to Hope it didn’t detract me from the story. It also serves as a great warning on how much of our personal data we should let social media have access too. I can’t wait to see what Claire delivers next

 

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt For The Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson

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Books about polar exploration always draw me in and the Franklin expedition would have to be my second favourite polar story after Shackleton of course. There’s just something about the whole age of heroes that draws me in each time. Men risking their lives for science (and celebrity status) is just a thing that’s not done anymore. The age of physical discovery is over, we don’t have these expeditions off to fill in an area of the map any more. Science is now done in the lab and on computers. I really wish that I live long enough to see this same race to explore take up once again but this time in space.

This book is split pretty much into three parts, the first part tells the story of the organisation of the expedition, Discussing the politics and bureaucracy in getting it all organised and then follows the progress if the expedition once it finally gets going and goes as far as known records show.

Once our records of known events are finished the story then switches back to England and the push by his wife to try and ascertain what has happened. The immense struggle she faces to get the Admiralty to do anything is covered by the many letters she wrote and then finally once she succeeds the story covers the many searches carried out and what limited findings they made.

The third and final part deals with recent events starting with the man who delved into Inuit stories to put the final pieces of the puzzle together and then on to the expeditions that finally found the ships as a result of Inuit stories.

Of course, there is still plenty of mystery around the expedition, most bodies still remain missing. Perhaps global warming and the receding ice sheets may reveal its final stories soon enough, in the meantime, this book serves as an excellent source to raise ones knowledge of events surround this expedition. It is well written, Paul really manages to capture the frustration felt my franklins wife as she struggled for years to get the Admiralty to do something. I really like how the book lists its sources where possible and even includes several pictures in the middle. A great read for sure,

 

Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy

Life gets in the way sometimes with what we really want to do and the past year has been a killer in terms of my reading progress. With all that was going on, I struggled to get the desire to read. Books would take almost a month for me to get through and rather than enjoy the fact I finished it I felt more a relief that it was over. That’s not how reading should make you feel, so I took a break from reading. I went from 60+ books read a year to 11. The book that changed it all for me had been sitting on my shelf for some time.  I had eyed it off many a time, found out it was part one in a trilogy and even order parts two and three but it still sat unread. In my reading lul its size was a turn-off, then one night while searching Netflix unsuccessfully for a good sci-fi movie, I said screw it and picked up book one and I just couldn’t put it down. A cliche I know but considering the last few months, I had struggled to even finish a chapter per reading session not being able to put this down was a huge turning point.

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The Three Body-Problem initially caught my eye for two reasons, firstly a big recommendation from another favourite sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson was on the cover and secondly,  the title alluded to an actual scientific concept/problem in the real world. The book’s blurb confirms my reasoning for grabbing it.

In 1967, physics professor Ye Zhetai is killed after he refuses to denounce the theory of relativity. His daughter, Ye Wenjie, witnesses his gruesome death. Shortly after, she’s falsely charged with sedition for promoting the works of environmentalist Rachel Carson, and told she can avoid punishment by working at a defense research facility involved with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. More than 40 years later, Ye’s work becomes linked to a string of physicist suicides and a complex role-playing game involving the classic physics problem of the title.”

Well colour me intrigued, the book involves SETI a huge interest of mine. We begin with A nanotech engineer, Wang Miao being asked by the police to investigate a secret cadre of scientists after a raft of suicides. Wangs pursuit of this leads him to an online game. Wang soon discovers that the game is key to everything and somehow links to an impending extinction-level threat to humanity. A game linked to a potential extinction, how? I just couldn’t put the book down at this point.

Such a unique story, I love the crime drama like feel to it as the plot is slowly unraveled from the perspective of Wang but just when you think you have it all figured out a bombshell is dropped on you. There is also a great insight into the realities of choices and the impact ones upbringing can have on your outlook in life. Early on, I was at a loss as to what the extinction level event could be and going into that last few pages I still couldnt piece it all together and then bam they drop the reveal right into our laps and we now know we have 400 years to prepare for it.

I just couldn’t leave it there so I dove straight into the second book as soon as I finished the first – spoilers will follow

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There’s no messing around this book dives right in and deals with the extinction-level threat and how humanity rallies to deal with it. We have 400 years to prepare somehow against the alien armada on its way. The Aliens are revealed to be called Trisolaris, a fitting name since they come from a planetary system with 3 suns hence the name of the first book. What’s worse is Trisolaris spies are already among us. The Sophons can see everything……How do you organize and plan to prevent an event of this magnitude when your every move is being watched and countered before you start it. How can you organize governments and the people to plan for something that’s 400 years in the future? The solution is the Wallfacer project, four men granted unlimited authority to prepare for the coming invasion how they see fit. The caveat, they can’t write anything down or tell anyone their plan as the sophons will see it and sabotage it.

There is a lot of pessimism in this book. I’m not sure if this is an insight into, the Chinese view of the world, just specifically the authors, or if this was merely for the sake of the plot but it was slightly discouraging to think that someone could be this pessimistic about humanity and life in the universe. For me, as an optimist, I saw the whole dark forest concept as deeply depressing. That instead of a galaxy with life everywhere and interacting like a forest full of animals, we are led to believe that all life comes to a stark and inevitable realization that its kill or be killed so all civilizations stay hidden from others, hence a dark forest and if signs of another are seen it is exterminated

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The climactic battle and the stalemate reach at the end of the previous book almost wrapped things up so just when you think you know how this one will bring the story home it takes it off onto such a unique path, I was just left in awe

From the unique concepts and twists on usual stories and themes to accurate science mentioned. This book series ticked all the right boxes for me. I had some difficulty with the names in this book, mainly from a lack of understanding of how to tell a given name from a family name for the numerous Chinese character, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. It was also great to read a story where the world isn’t saved by the good ol’ US of A. This series was apparently the first books from the author to be translated into English, so I am hoping more of his other works will be translated too. Definitely becoming one of my favorite book series.

This series has renewed my passion for reading once again

Star Wars Ahsoka -E. K. Johnston

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This was a great little story,  with the character of Ahsoka, first introduced in the clone wars cartoon but that there is the problem, the character is in a CARTOON not really a source of entertainment for adults and sadly Disney seems content in only making it’s non-movie material for kids.

There’s plenty of young adult and children’s books, the Rebels cartoon series but for an adult there is nothing but the main movies and the occasion sub par movie tie in book. Its as if Disney doesn’t care that adults like star wars

Which makes a dilemma for those not interested in children’s entertainment but want more Star Wars. This book is set after Episode 3 and the massacre of the jedi. Originally introduced as Anakin Skywalkers apprentice, Ahsoka was framed for a crime and left the jedi order when no one believed her innocence and that is when she left the Clone Wars series. She recently reappeared in the Rebels cartoon but we have no knowledge of what happened between the two series which is about 15 years

The story picks up after the fall of the Jedi and we find her in hiding, just trying to survive. After arriving on a planet she begrudgingly befriends some locals and finally starts to fit in when her past comes back to haunt her and she must choose to either run away or stand and fight. Great story that fills in the gaps between her appearances on the clone wars cartoon and in star wars rebels, with many flashback scenes taking us to past events as well. The events in this book help shape her and make her decision to return the fight

Touch by Clair North

22314178I have read quite a few books (who hasn’t) probably a couple of hundred and I can count on one hand the number of books that made me lose sleep and hide from society. I’m not talking from fear or sadness, I’m talking about a book that hooks you in so bad that you lie awake at night wondering what happens next, you cancel social engagements to allow time to read. You call in sick to work to ensure you don’t run out of time and have to leave the book at a crucial point because it’s time to go to work.  This author has written two of these books.
Claire north is just a pseudonym for Catherine Webb, who in her teens wrote a lot of YA books, then when she hit 20 she started writing adult fantasy and so her publisher said its pseudonym time (kate Griffin) to ensure readers don’t get confused. Later on as she wrote books of a completely different style of writing and content it was time for a new name (Claire North) As someone who judges books by covers, and googles authors before picking up a new book this makes a lot of sense. If when I first saw 15 lives of harry august and then googled her name, if I saw she wrote YA I probably wouldn’t of grabbed the book. So kudos to her publishers I am the very type of person they thought of when saying its pseudonym time.
Touch is an amazing roller-coaster of a story, the plot is unique enough to pique my interest and her writing clever enough to keep me wanting more. It isn’t so much so the character I love but the story, I mean just wow. Kepler, is brutally murdered but in the last moments reaches out to the murderer, when suddenly the unthinkable happens, she switches. Kepler is now in the killers body. Kepler now has the ability to jump from one person to another and we are now drawn into a world where people are paid to allow someone to “reside” in their body. A secret society if you will, But when one such body is brutally murdered, Kepler soon finds out not everyone is happy with the idea of this ability

Claire delivers another knockout story, the level of depth she brings into the world is stunning. After I read her first book I went out and bought all the books by Clair, so I cant wait to dive into her next one

Meg #3 Primal Waters, Meg #4 Hell’s Aquarium by Steve Alten

105746Oh where to begin with this one, I really enjoyed Meg #1 with its introduction of a prehistoric, once believed extinct species but then Meg #2 introduced another species and I was concerned the 3rd might keep that ball rolling. Sadly something worse happened, the book revolves around that gutter trash commonly referred to as reality television. Oh the pain. If it wasn’t bad enough that our screens are filled with this trash and that our society scoops up this rubbish in which stupid people are made famous. To write a book about it is just depressing. Was the author running out of story ideas? The story starts out loosely believable and then add in a plot of revenge and its just bare-able.

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But all sense of realism and plausibility is thrown right out the window with Meg #4.  To make up for his bucking of the trend in bringing back long dead species in Meg #3, the author steps it up a notch and brings back half a dozen extinct species and an underwater realm were they have all lived since time eternal. Cash money Arabs throwing money around like confetti to capture these animals and put them in a zoo just makes we wonder if anyone has ever watched Jurassic park? It wont work guys give up.

I really didn’t enjoy either of these books and really found myself having to bribe myself into finishing this book. The plot and realisim was just gone for me.  The sad reality is there is still a 5th book in this series to come, and I dread as to what the plot will be for that. My compulsion to always finish a series once started really annoys me here as I would love nothing more than to throw away these books and never read this author again but alas I must continue I hate loose ends

The Trench – Steve Alten

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Set four years after the previous novel, we find the baby shark from  said novel is now a full grown 20+ meter long Megalodon Shark. The book does talk in imperial units,  yuck! A 20+ Meter shark in captivity, yeah that sounds like a good idea. Then we quickly find out the shark is in heat, so there is a bunch of eager great white males hanging around the aquarium. The fact that the male great white is only about 4 meters long compared to the Megalodon who is called “Angel” being at over 20 meters long, doesn’t even deter these animals.

So it wasn’t exactly a huge surprise when Angel broke out and as Jonas and gang attempt to capture her again we find out there are other forces at work with some kind of hidden agenda.

The situation gets worse when Jonas finds out his wife has gone back to the trench where this all began, plagued by nightmares it seems Jonas is about to fall apart.

Too often action stories focus solely on the physical so it was refreshing to see this story deal with the emotional impact and possible PTSD. Mental issues are too often ignored so its great to see this being dealt with in this story.

It did get a bit far fetched when they introduced a second prehistoric creature but that didnt deter the entertainment. This book was just as good as the original but with 3 more to go in the series i wonder if they can maintain realisim throughout or will the final books and up much like the final jaws movie, rubbish