& Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Publisher: Crown July 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Publisher: Crown July 2016

The Book Itself: It’s decent, for being just text. The color and bold type make it striking on the shelf, but I can’t help but wish it had something more.

My Review: “Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

My goodness, no one can review this book because to review it is to spoil it! So what can I tell you that dozens of other vague-on-purpose reviews have not?

Here’s the gist of it again: Jason Dessen has a nice, if safe life. He loves his wife and son very much, he is a respected teacher at a university, and he only sometimes pines after the life of scientific breakthrough and fame he almost had. Cue to the first night that our story begins: after having a drink with an old colleague, Jason gets kidnapped and drugged into oblivion. When he wakes up, he is the winner of the science award. He stuck with science instead of stopping his research and becoming a family man. He is placed in the life he thought he would once have, and in the true spirit of you-don’t-know-what-you-have-until-it’s-gone, all he then wants to do is get back to his wife and son.

And events unfold from there. From the description alone, I had an idea of why he woke up where he woke up. Why he was what he was. Hint/spoiler (?): it has to do with what he accomplishes in science if he had continued his research. But maybe that’s because I read a bunch of sci-fi (even though this is classified as fiction) and I’m a nerd like that.

This book is a fast read. I zoomed through it only partly because it was intriguing and the mystery kept me going as I rooted for Jason to get back to his family. But I gobbled it up in a day or two mostly because it’s written in such a snappy, short-sentence matter. It felt like I was reading a screenplay, or the summary of a long movie at some points. There are no long, descriptive paragraphs. No contemplative, interior moments for Jason. It’s not the writing style that I am used to, and sometimes I struggled with it. I wanted there to be more. The ending is so dang good that I wanted the rest of the book and the story to linger a while, to give me a little more than stage directions.

But I think that quick, no-nonsense style will appeal to some readers. It’s definitely a thriller, one that tries to turn you one way but really goes another. There are chase scenes, shoot-outs, layered mysteries, and a staggering amount of “bad guys.”

And the ending. Holy guacamole. The clipped writing style really lent itself to the twisting turns that was this novel’s ending. So many things happen in quick succession. Just when one plan is set in place, someone or something comes along to de-rail it. I would say if you can handle a book more focused on action and don’t mind your sentences short and to-the-point, this ending makes it all worth it. And it you’re already a fan of fast thrillers, you’ll like this one too.

My Grade: B

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Update

New socks courtesy of the party favors at the party I helped put together tonight - Slytherin AND Ravenclaw, for the two houses I am most often sorted into!

New socks courtesy of the party favors at the party I helped put together tonight – Slytherin AND Ravenclaw, for the two houses I am most often sorted into!

I’m BAAAAAAAACK!

Whew. Stroke of midnight tonight (Oregon time) had me finally back in my reading chair and ready to delve back into this readathon. I had a lovely morning polishing off Gemina and then a short story collection by David Eagleman called Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives.

And then I was gone the rest of the day…

The Harry Potter party was a great success, as was my friend’s birthday. But I am super bummed that I missed out on the bulk of this readathon! Looking around at all of the social media happening around it, all of the mini challenges I didn’t get to participate in only makes me more excited for readathons to come, though!

So for now I will hole up in my reading chair, with my new Hogwarts-house-socks, and see if I can’t just polish off another book before the event ends.

Happy reading!!

Wizarding Wednesdays: It’s Time for a Harry Potter Quiz

Hey, all! Happy Wednesday! I found this Harry Potter Questionnaire here, and decided to tweak it a bit, adding some of my own questions and subtracting some others. Enjoy, and feel free to fill it out and post it as well!

 1. If you went to Hogwarts, which house would you be sorted into?

If there were a house that combined Slytherin and Ravenclaw, that’d be me! (Slytherclaw? Ravenin?) But Pottermore has sorted me into Slytherin, which I sort of get.

2. What would your Animagus be? Your Patronus?

Well, an Animagus is an animal you can voluntarily turn into, so…probably something that could fly. A hawk, or an eagle. As for a Patronus, you don’t have control over that, but that might be a cougar (so a giant, fiercer cat) or a horse (because I loved horses when I was a kid).

3. What would your career be like after graduating from Hogwarts?

I would have loved to be a Madame Pomfrey type – healing the sick and injured. But I don’t even have the stomach to watch hospital shows on TV…so I would get into wand-making. I think it would be awesome to help new witches and wizards get the most important tool they need to start their journey.   

4. Have you ever been to a HP midnight release?

I’ve only been to one, but I wish I had gone to more! I attended the last book’s midnight release. I still remember the fun events at the bookstore I picked it up at, and the experience of my friends and I all in the car at 1 AM, reading to ourselves 🙂

5. How many times have you re-read the books?

I have listened to the audiobooks 2-3 times each. My family listened to them on roadtrips. The books, actually probably only 3 times each, tops! It’s my goal to re-read the series again, soon.

6. Whose death was the saddest? 

There were a lot. I read the final book on a family vacation and had to take a reading break after every death…I took a lot of reading breaks. Fred’s death was pretty terrible. Lupin AND Tonks was such a shock. But I think Dumbledore’s had one of the biggest impacts. The rest of the series would have played out much differently had he lived it.

7. If you went to Hogwarts would you rather have a cat, an owl, or a rat?

Okay, so the only useful animal is an owl. Did the kids who didn’t have an owl just borrow the school’s owls? Did they have to rent them? Did they have to take care of their own owls, come to think of it? SUDDENLY SO MANY OWL QUESTIONS! I am a cat person, so I would have loved to have a cat.

8. What do you think of the Deathly Hallows being split in two?

I thought it worked very well, with how much ground they had to cover! Unfortunately EVERY franchise after HP had to split the last installment in two, and none of them did it as effectively.

9. Have you read the Tales of Beedle the Bard?

I have, but only once! Perhaps I’ll re-read that one as well when I re-read the book series.

10. When did you first become a Potter fan? 

I believe I joined the series as the third book was coming out. I was instantly hooked. I made my family listen to them on audiobook, and got them hooked as well.

Favorites:

Book? I remember loving Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when I first read them. That might change on the re-read, though!

Movie? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The Knight Bus, Hogsmeade, the Shrieking Shack, Buckbeak the Hippogriff, everything!

Female character? Hermione Granger, through and through.

Male character? Dumbledore. So many great quotes came from him. Although in hindsight he made a lot of questionable decisions regarding Harry. These comics make me laugh every time.

Professor? Minerva McGonagall

Magical creature? I always found Thestrals fascinating: a creature you could only see if you witnessed death.

Spell? I am constantly losing things (like car keys…) so Accio would be useful. Also Wingardium Leviosa, to move heavier things – imagine how easy it would be to rearrange the furniture!

Potion? Who wouldn’t want some Felix Felicis – liquid luck?!

Magical Subject? I don’t think I could choose! Transfiguration…or Care of Magical Creatures…or Charms (Charms seems significantly underrated. Most useful objects wizards use, like Hermione’s bag in Deathly Hallows or the tents at the Quidditch World Cup in Goblet of Fire are mentioned to be charmed – I could charm SO MANY THINGS!)

Quote? “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.” – Hermione Granger

Hogwarts House? Ravenclaw

Place? Too many! Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, the tents at the Quidditch World Cup, HOGWARTS IN GENERAL, etc. etc. etc.

Weasley? Molly Weasley. Let’s be real.

Couple? Ron and Hermione

This or That

Butterbeer or Firewhiskey? Butterbeer, because I’ve tasted it before at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida! And whiskey isn’t my favorite liquor.

Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade? Tough one. Probably Diagon Alley.

Books or Movies? Is this even a question? Books all the way. Although I am very glad the movies were made as well as they were.

Half Blood Prince or Deathly Hallows? Deathly Hallows. I have more memories of reading that one. And the two movies were better.

Philosopher’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets? Chamber of Secrets

Snape or Slughorn: Both have their flaws. I don’t think the reveal of Snape’s past redeemed him fully for how he treated not only Harry, but the majority of the other students at Hogwarts. And Slughorn played unfair favorites. But Snape had the better character arc (and I still posit that he was a vampire. Just sayin’).

Lupin or Sirius? Lupin, although he could be entirely too serious sometimes (HA! SIRIUS/SERIOUS!)

Harry/Ginny or Harry/Hermione? I think Ron & Hermione are far more dynamic than a Harry & Hermione relationship would have been. I wish Ginny had been more of a rounded character in both the books and the movies, but I still rooted for her and Harry to get together.

Kreacher or Dobby? Dobby. Although I do like how much of a curmudgeon Kreacher was.

Dan or Rupert? Confession time: I had such a crush on Daniel Radcliffe when the first movies came out. My poor 10-year-old heart couldn’t take it.

Bellatrix or Narcissa? Bellatrix. Mostly for the greatest scene ever, in which she dies and Molly Weasley is a badass.

Hedwig or Crookshanks? Crookshanks’ attitude is my favorite. Although Hedwig makes me cry to think about :’-(

& Fridays: Temptation Bookstore

As an avid bookworm, I should have known it would be dangerous for me to work in a bookstore. When I ring people up, I find books I want to read. When I’m setting out books on Monday nights for their Tuesday morning releases, I find books I want to read. And finally, when I tidy up a section of the store, I find books I want to read.

That last one happened most recently. In moving the art sections over to make room for another music bay, I came across a book of photos that I remembered finding on Pinterest a while back.

Follow Me To by Murad Osmann and Nataly Zakharova. Photography. Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Follow Me To by Murad Osmann and Nataly Zakharova. Photography. Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Follow Me To depicts a couple of travelers as they explore the world. The girl leads the guy by the hand, and gorgeous cityscapes and landscapes sprawl out before them. The pictures are fantastic. It made this bookworm want to go to all of the places that they did, from Disneyland (let’s face it, I always want to go to Disneyland…), to Dubai to Hong Kong.

My personal favorite, though, is photograph of the guy proposing atop a roof in Russia. If that was truly the moment he proposed, that’s a pretty nifty souvenir for the two of them to have!

 

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by  Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. Fiction. Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. Fiction. Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books.

 

 

I found this gem in a list of “Must Reads” on my eReader. What does it involve? Secret writing societies, a “disease” that starts rearranging the words in classic literature, mysterious abound…just the description had me hooked!

 

 

 

 

Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg. Fiction. Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg. Fiction. Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

 

My best friend texted me with an image of this cover saying “THIS SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING YOU’D READ!” It is, of course, a dystopia. But it’s got a little bit of that Walking Dead eerie sanctuary deal going on. Our protagonist lives in a hospital because she is somehow immune from the epidemic killing off thousands of people (and, you know, doctors can examine her and the others to see if they can develop a cure). But things get a little controlling at said hospital, and our protagonist eventually sets off in search of her birth mother across an apocalyptic America.

 

 

So those have been my recent, spontaneous book purchases! Look for some of these reviews coming down the pipeline! And have a marvelous Friday!!

& Review: Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent

Don't Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent

Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent

“You think it was bad when you were pulling all-nighters in college? Don’t worry, it gets worse.”

Book Title: Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse
Author: Alida Nugent
Pages: 290
Genre: Humor/Essays
Publisher: Plume (Penguin)
Date Published: May 7th, 2013
Date Read: May 25th, 2014
Format: Paperback
Cover Love: It’s cute! It’s apt – you might look put together, but really you’re completely messed up in the head. It’s attention-catching, which all covers need to be.
Given Synopsis: Alida Nugent graduated college with a degree in one hand and a drink in the other, eager to trade in parties and all-nighters for “the real world.” But post-grad wasn’t the glam life she imagined. Soon buried under a pile of bills, laundry, and three-dollar bottles of wine, it quickly became clear that she had no idea what she was doing. But hey, what twentysomething does?

In Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse, Nugent shares what it takes to make the awkward leap from undergrad to “mature and responsible adult that definitely never eats peanut butter straight from the jar and considers it a meal.” From trying to find an apartment on the black hole otherwise known as Craigslist to the creative maneuvering needed to pay off student loans and still enjoy happy hour, Nugent documents the formative moments of being a twentysomething with a little bit of snark and a lot of heart. Based on her popular Tumblr blog The Frenemy, Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse is a love note to boozin’, bitchin’ ladies everywhere.”
What I’d Add: It’s actually a great blurb – definitely what the book is about!
It’s Sorta Like: Now this one reminds me of Sloane Crosley’s humorous essay collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake. Which is an awesome book. It’s one I’d consider a favorite because it did what I seldom do with books (even if they’re flat-out fantastic): laugh out loud.
My Grade: B+
Review:
Not only did I want to read this because graduation season is coming up and I wanted to at least read some of my suggestions for gifts/have the possibility of actually gifting things that I read and approved to friends of mine who are graduating (If that makes sense. Anyway!), Nugent is also writing from a perspective that I’m particularly primed to hear. She writes this as a college graduate a couple of years removed from the school scene, trying to figure out how to support herself (i.e. not have to live with her parents forever), how to navigate romantic pitfalls like online dating, and things you learn in this particular workplace we call RETAIL. I too, am working in said work sector (Nugent has since found her way out, but her essays dealing with the scary universe of job hunting and the total crap you put up with when you take a retail job is spot-on and often genuinely hilarious), AND am trying to find a way to be self-sufficient AND not have to live with my parents forever.

The most important thing for a book of humorous essays, in my opinion, is that it matches your humor as the reader. You could have every other person say “Oh! But have you read David Sedaris/Chelsea Handler/Nora Ephron? They’re my FAVORITE!” and you buy a copy, read a couple stories, and just not get it. I mean, technically, the same is true for fiction, but humorous essays need to be specifically relate-able. You have to see something in the subject matter that you at least somehow relate to. And the humor has to be right. If you’re not into crude, drunken debauchery, don’t read books like I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell (Tucker Max). If you don’t get or don’t use super sarcastic anecdotes, and you aren’t around people who talk like that, then you might not appreciate this book and others like it.

Nugent’s humor sat right with me. She talks like my friends and I talk when we’re around each other, she portrays the very real fears and insecurities that we feel with a heaping spoonful of sarcasm (which is just how we like it served). I cannot claim to be a humorous essay connoisseur, but I have read a few that I’ve loved, and a few that I didn’t get. The good ones made me laugh out loud. Often, in public. And I won’t get embarrassed (not that laughing aloud while reading a book would be sufficient enough to embarrass me. I have experienced far worse in many a coffee shop and restaurant). Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse had me giggling at work, in the passenger seats of cars, and had me reading aloud passages to friends and family.

And not only is the humor great, but the little gem of advice, the moral to every story, seems very genuine to me. Nugent makes you snort your soda through your nose, and then gets sweet. She makes you feel like she cares about you and your very real and normal fears. My favorite piece in the book is her spoof on inspirational graduation speeches, “It’s Your Day, Now Let Me Talk”. It’s got all the great hallmarks of those YouTube-d speeches, with a heavy dose of self-deprecation, wit, and genuine good advice. Plus, it’s where she takes her great title from.

I would have liked the book itself to be longer, maybe include a couple more stories, expand beyond some tropes that Nugent relies on a little too often (jobs, wine, and friendship…although on second thought all of those topics are pretty rife for storytelling). But overall I thought this collection was funny and relateable, which is exactly what you’d want it to be.