Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Passage

by Justin Cronin

Please Mr. Cronin, tell me there was a mistake at the publishers and they accidentally merged two entirely different books together, thus leaving The Passage Part One unfinished. Please tell me you didn't write The Passage Part Two, or if you did that it wasn't really the ending to the story with that mysterious little girl, Amy who everyone was trying to steal and save and figure out just what her special abilities could do and how to use them. Really there had to be a mistake!

The Passage Part One is an interesting and fast-paced drama set mainly in current midwest America. Six year old Amy is a child with unique abilities. She can speak to animals with her mind and make strange things happen, which is why the US government wants her. Her mother, in a desperate attempt to save her, drops her off with some nuns, where she finds a kindred spirit in Sister Lacey.  But even Lacey's special abilities can't protect Amy from the Feds. Once Amy is captured though, Detective Wolgast takes a liking to her and risks his life and career to help her escape. The characters in Part One are engaging and draw you quickly into their turmoil. But just when you're sucked in, POOF! they're gone.

The Passage Part Two is a slow-paced, apocalyptic, vampire-creature novel set a hundred years in the future west America. In this future most of humanity has been eaten by the Virals and the survivors have built protective communities to hide from them. The main focus is on a domed community in California whose leaders guard their children by locking them up in collective housing and patrol outside until they themselves are eaten by the Virals. This is their existence about a hundred years, but now their power source is running out, so a group of teens is going to venture out into the world for help. And here all kinds of unbelievable things happen. They connect up with a young girl who has been surviving on her own in the world. This girl speaks to them through her mind and seems to be able to communicate with the Virals. The brave teens take her along with them on their mission to somewhere in Colorado where there is supposedly help for all of them. Part Two is full of dull characters with rambling backstories that don't connect and drawn out occurrences that don't ring true to the circumstances. And even though you could care less about this story it goes on and on and on and never stops.

If you decide to read this 800-page nationally acclaimed novel, I'd recommend either stopping after about page 250 where begins an entirely different book written by an entirely different person or else skipping over those pages entirely. Maybe if you never knew about Part One you could enjoy Part Two and the sequels. Perhaps somewhere in books two or three Cronin returns to complete The Passage Part One, but I just don't have enough interest to invest another fifty hours to read the additional 1200 pages and find out.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Kill Me Again

by Rachel Abbott

As the year comes to a close and I find myself so far behind in reviewing all the books I've read I typically choose ones I like and drop the bad ones. However, two years ago I read Sleep Tight by this author and thought it was a decent thriller, so I felt after reading Kill Me Again, I owed you this critique so you wouldn't waste your precious time. In fact, it was so poorly written I'm questioning my judgement on that other book! 

For starters, it has a weak plot, no plot twist, no mystery, no thrill, nothing..... except a main character who is a complete idiot! I'm astounded when authors create a female character wanting her to be a smart, self-sufficient woman, but then have her consistently doing stupid stuff! What smart woman, who is a defense attorney no less, marries a man who has no family or friends, doesn't share any of his past, keeps things locked away in a cabinet but demands to keep it secret and gets private messages on his phone? That would be Maggie Taylor. And she did all this because (you guessed it) she just loves him so much! Then when people who look just like her start turning up dead and all fingers point to her beloved husband, she just keeps doing dumb things because she loves him and can't believe he'd lie to her. So she dispenses with reason, lies to her sister and puts her children's lives in jeopardy because she loves him. Ugh!

I vote NO!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Boys in the Boat

by Daniel James Brown

The headlines of the 1936 Olympics definitely focused on Jesse Owens and his string of gold medal runs. But Daniel Brown tells another story of an unlikely victory from that same Olympic Games, the US men's rowing team and their struggle to the gold.

It begins with Joe Rantz, a poor, semi-orphaned farm boy who makes his way to Washington State University and onto its rowing team. What follows is a detailed history of rowing, boats, races and the other Boys in the Boat.  Alongside them were their coach, Al Ulbrickson and the legendary boatmaker George Pocock. There are a few times when the narrative lags into too much information, but for the most part Brown brings these people, their struggles and triumphs to life and shares a little known piece of history. Overall, it's a great story. If you liked Hillenbrand's Unbroken  and  Seabiscuit  then this is right up your alley.