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The Ghost Brigades (Old Man’s War #2) by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers — a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin’s electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades.

At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his “father,” he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I just loved the witty humor, the science, the mere confirmation through human observation.

I listened to this one via audiobook, narrated by William Dufris, which was excellent.

I loved the speculation, the licorice, the confrontation, the human discovery. Some parts droned on a bit, I really wanted to know John Perry again, and a little more concrete and emotional connection between the characters (yet while side characters to maintain their distinction) and the direction the overall plot trajectory, but I’m looking forward to continuing on in the series.



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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Horror Science Fiction

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I thought this was great. I listened to it via audiobook, narrated by the author himself, which I’d highly recommend.

The writing, the story, really captured the innocence, both literal and magical thinking of a child, yet was palatable as an adult reader.

Kittens, staircases, hidden places, wormholes, riddle-like quests. Curiosity, the feeling of getting in trouble, being disciplined, friendships, dangers and fears, and dinner manners. All the themes, concepts, and individual interpretation shared, making for a really compelling read.



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Adventure Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages #3) by Jules Verne

The intrepid Professor Liedenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth’s very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the geologist–together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans–discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne’s imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages, #3)Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was great. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club. I enjoyed it as an audiobook, narrated by Simon Prebble.

I loved the original movie from 1959. In this book, as a new post movie read for me, I also loved how the story unfolded, though I must say it was difficult to put aside the ideas I already knew from the movie and not miss on all the nonstop action that drove the storyline home.

The story was a little slow to start though. I couldn’t wait to get to the actual journey part. The build up was important but slow from this aspect, but when it took off, the story became a little more alive to me.

I don’t think I ever remembered it taking place in Iceland, so I really appreciated all the insight into Icelandic scenery and culture.

The thought put into the science fiction aspects were my favorite part. Thoughts about lighting to view the center of the earth, taking note of how one could possibly do this in the presence of gasses. Discussion about the actual physical space, liquid or solidarity. The discussions that took place among the characters to evaluate this. I just loved all the ideas that were studied and explored.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Science Fiction

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining, simple, linear plot, perfect for what I was wanting to read right now. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

This was a quick read which I quite reveled in. It was an instant plunge into the story which I quite liked and I enjoyed the trajectory. The bulk of it centered around technical aspects of the journey mission and a bit of internal conflict that was humanly relatable from a robot telling sort of point of view. I loved the little mentionable bits of pop culture.

From that standpoint I would have liked to have seen more character development integrated into the telling of the technical bits, maybe a side line story over a period of time, or in response to a certain incident, or perhaps in thought. Just an extra kick of something specific I could bond to other than the more generic human-like qualities. I also wasn’t really sure what the whole sex and gender bit was about and how it was set out to enrich the story. I had hoped to come to understand a bit of the backstory or resolution in that to explain the importance or whether it was for entertainment purposes or for what, but maybe there is more to come in the love interest sector with the subsequent book.

Overall a good book!

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Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Science Fiction Thriller

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Memory makes reality.

That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome-a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

That’s what neuroscientist Helena Smith believes. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious memories. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. 

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

RecursionRecursion by Blake Crouch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really good! The concept of this story was thought-provoking. It took relatable concepts, put them into a thrilling story of questioning the what-ifs, self-identity, and who-knows of life. There was almost this unwritten internal dialogue that put an over-arching question proposing “What would you do if you could have a do-over in life?”

There were some scientific concepts that were just a bit flat in writing style and content. More one-dimensional than I felt they needed to be. I think they could have been a bit less vague or arbitrary and the author could have taken more liberty and a step further with the descriptions. Example, “web of synapses” and “neural coordinates for memory.” But I can see how it might be challenging to keep true to the hard sciences as we know it from an expert/specialist’s point of view and also incorporate a creative spin to a science fiction narrative. Still very well done though! An enjoyable read!

And I loved the literary quote references at the beginning of each chapter!

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1)Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An interesting story. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

This is a heavy read, not in volume but in sadness and much tragedy. It lingered there, a little too long for my taste.

It started out strong, but I quickly realized that maybe it’s one I would have better appreciated in the 90s or early 2000s. I wouldn’t say this book stands the test of time like other futuristic, dystopian concepts I’ve read. Which would be fine, but it lingered too much in the head of the narrator, that being presented in first person, with too much stagnation in personal reflection and not enough character growth or support for character consistency.

By the time I got half way through, realizing this was more of reminiscing and dwelling, and dwelling around a very specific concept of personal loss and societal woes, I just wanted to get it over with and didn’t look forward to finding out what was next because the interpersonal and personal victories kept getting postponed and never really came into full fruition by the end of the story in my opinion. It just became a bit exhausting to pick up and read, and I lost interest pretty early on unfortunately.

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Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang’s first published story, “Tower of Babylon,” won the Nebula Award in 1990. Subsequent stories have won the Asimov’s SF Magazine reader poll, a second Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Sidewise Award for alternate history. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1992. Story for story, he is the most honored young writer in modern SF.

Now, collected here for the first time are all seven of this extraordinary writer’s stories so far-plus an eighth story written especially for this volume.

What if men built a tower from Earth to Heaven-and broke through to Heaven’s other side? What if we discovered that the fundamentals of mathematics were arbitrary and inconsistent? What if there were a science of naming things that calls life into being from inanimate matter? What if exposure to an alien language forever changed our perception of time? What if all the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity were literally true, and the sight of sinners being swallowed into fiery pits were a routine event on city streets? These are the kinds of outrageous questions posed by the stories of Ted Chiang. Stories of your life . . . and others.

Stories of Your Life and OthersStories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sort of an eclectic collection of short stories. I read this for Life’s Library Book Club and it was one already on my TBR. I’d say more of them are within the fantasy realm. I converted to audiobook, narrated by Todd McLaren & Abby Craden, which was ok as it added a bit of personality to some of the more boorish reads for me. Abby’s reads have a wide range of character, though at her lower register became fatigued and I was getting sleepy listening to it, so I ended up going back to the physical copy of the book to finish up some parts.

My favorite was the first story, the one about the Tower of Babylon. Although theologically it doesn’t really represent the Biblical point of the building of the tower, this story one was the most intriguing one to read. The descriptions of the atmosphere, emotional turmoil, and characterization of brick layering while working under the hot sun to accomplish a common goal was well thought out.

I wasn’t as fond of most of the other stories though. Between scientific jargon sort of thrown about, kind of forced and like a word salad at times, some of which were less precise in definition and illogical, not in the fantasy story sense, but in the actual physiological characteristics and function of normal/pathological anatomy. And reading the thought pattern of a teen trying to solve a math problem in her head was just not for me.

Overall, though I liked the riddle-like sense captured each story.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Science Fiction

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

The Yiddish Policemen's UnionThe Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this one for Life’s Library book club. I feel a bit indifferent about the story. It’s certainly not a bad book, as I did enjoy where it was initially taking me, but it just was not my most favorite as far as how invested I was in it.

Many parts were very interesting and I loved the directness it offered at the beginning, but then that became lost and certain parts overemphasized as far as detail in what was taking place. As a result, the remainder of the story meandered around which made me lose my full attention.

It begins as a very plot driven story, but some of it is revealed before much of the character development begins. So perhaps that is where I began to feel disconnected because I did not feel immersed into the story right away and that sort of set the whole tone for me to not feel well invested about the rest of the book. It almost started to feel like the plot trajectory and some holes along with it were being filled in a retrospective manner.

I did like the alternate concept though and I would like to check out more from this author.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon © 2019 ericarobbin.com | All rights reserved.

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The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life—Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle #6)The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t know, it was ok. Loved the premise. I kept feeling like it was missing something though and very drawn out at the same time. I enjoyed the direction it was going but it never seemed to quite get there.

There was a lot of time spend on the descriptions without really going anywhere or in the way I hoped the plot would have moved for this type of genre.

I’d like to try reading another book by this author and I’m realizing as I write this review, that this is #6, which perhaps explains my feelings, if this is the case, I wouldn’t recommend it as a stand alone and next time I’ll start with #1 and I’ll be sure to update this review when I do.

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Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

The story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

Flowers for AlgernonFlowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a good story. I’d recommend it to anyone. I followed along via audiobook, narrated by Jeff Woodman, which I’d highly recommend as well.

The author, Daniel Keyes, was a master at writing to the progression of the story and character development in this book. Beginning with inner and external dialogue that spoke to the nuances of language development from concrete to abstract thinking and to the vocabulary itself. From developmental delays and emotional immaturity to the acquisition and subsequent regression, the thought patterns and use of words were very well thought out.

The premise itself covered consciousness, introspection, personhood, character, innate being, ethical dilemmas, meaning, belonging, intimacy, relational concepts, and love. It explores what it means to be a person, who and what you are and I loved how the author communicated it all.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community.

The GiverThe Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read it for SunBeamsJess Book Club. I’d recommend it to people who are looking for a read that explores ideas of extreme societal concepts.

I enjoyed reading about the main character’s overall life and behavior that gave rise to setting up the plot in which there was a society that boasted about its ability to achieve perfection through sameness and oppression. I thought most of these parts were well-written and that this initial idea was going to take off to help build up to an eye-opening message. I found myself a tad disappointed when it built up to a climax that that ended up pivoting its strength on pure fantasy.

The writing started out with choppy sentences that read like an overworked attempt to not start sentences with the same word. The story moved incredibly slow for about the first half of the book and some parts felt a bit repetitive when attempting to set up the scene. However the second half got significantly better once everything started to happen in present tense.

I found it a tad difficult to fully embrace the direction the writer was trying to take me and what I was already supposed to know. Perhaps it was because the storyline developed into strange separations of function and dysfunction without much definition or distinction of either.

It presented a family unit that pretty much only lived on only concrete thinking and the main character, Jonas, was eventually introduced to abstract thinking, but it’s only through the supernatural transposition of memories that he was able to do this. So it left me wondering, what was the point of having forbidden books? In a way, the abstract concept of feelings existed the whole time (even when they weren’t exactly referenced that way). But why would books be forbidden for citizens to read when they wouldn’t be able to conceptualize them through memories which they supposedly never had in the first place?

It was an interesting idea but there were many humanistic qualities that were put into boxes of black and white thinking that were ill-defined from the beginning which threw off the whole concept of co-existing societies with extreme contrasting norms. This resulted in plot holes that were filled in with fantasy. Then it ended.

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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

In his much-anticipated debut novel, Hank Green—cocreator of Crash Course, Vlogbrothers, and SciShow—spins a sweeping, cinematic tale about a young woman who becomes an overnight celebrity before realizing she’s part of something bigger, and stranger, than anyone could have possibly imagined.

An Absolutely Remarkable ThingAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had mixed feelings about this one. I enjoyed parts of it, other parts I didn’t. I read this for the Nerdfighteria Book Club. It’s a mix of genres but I think those who enjoy sci-fi, young adult, and books with pop culture references relative to this particular time period, give or take 10 years, would enjoy it.

The writing style was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed it on one hand because I appreciated the casual conversation-like structure and dialogue that was relevant to its time. I typically enjoy books that are written this way to a point because most writers will make each word count and many are written with a prose that is deep and lyrical. This was not that style and therefore came off as a bit sloppy to me. Often it was: Say, explain, say, explain. There was a lack of cohesiveness and structure even for prose. I just wanted something more allegorical to compliment the Carls and to help me embrace the reach for the ultimate let’s feel good acceptance of the ending.

The characters weren’t as fully developed as I’d hoped. There were just too many explanations of the character’s thoughts and thought process itself. Basically everything about the characters was told to me rather than shown which made them quite shallow and less relatable. There was a lack of emotional resolution for the hurts that were experienced. For an ending like that, I wanted a little more satisfaction or justice or some type of persuasion, importance, or purpose for including certain attributes mentioned in the book. Many of the character qualities that were introduced in the beginning never found their way to be either celebrated or overcome in the end. I was hoping the main character, April, would have perhaps used her appreciation for fine art to help drive her scene descriptions since it were being told from her point of view, maybe we’ll see that develop in the next book.

My favorite part of the book was the narrative surrounding the Carls, the concept was absolutely creative! It was playful and fun. It included supportive themes that make for good science fiction. And I really appreciated the integration of modern day pop culture both in reference and in plot building. I also liked the way the book was organized as far as the titling and timing of events.

However my love for these aspects stopped there though. There was an overshadowing tone that vacillated between being over-scrupulous to complete disregard. It often felt like a push toward underlying personal agendas which didn’t quite fit into the main premise of the plot when I thought it was going to be about the Carls and the cool concept I built up in my mind about them. Instead to me it read like: Here is my one chance to share all of my deeply personal thoughts and feelings about my worldview and by the way we were visited by awesome space aliens that made us solve puzzles in our dreams and they parked themselves in front of Chipotle.

It felt too trying in sharing philosophical notions. It came off as preachy and far-reaching with the overindulgent sharing of political and moral positions and ideals into a plot that is less supported by them. There just was a lot of going out of the way to prove a point. There were interruptions and distractions throughout the changing in the of POV, sentence structure, over explanations, or over simplified definitions in effort to keep multigenerational appeal.

And back to the characters, I think April’s story could have added so much interest and depth to the tone once we were introduced to her as a person who appreciated fine art. It would have been neat to have seen the art appreciation and preservation and how April would have used this to “save the day,” especially if the author really wanted to support a shift in focus.

As far as the plot itself was concerned, it lacked complete resolution and closure. It did not evoke the emotional depth I hoped it would have. Basically it was a narrative overshadowed by a tossing of facts without a call to action. It was ranty, rambly, and confusing to me as to whether each line was an opportunity to make a case for educating the audience, an opportunity to vent, or support the main idea of Carls in the storyline. It lacked solidarity as to what me as the reader should be doing with the information that I just read. And interestingly enough, the actual plot about the Carls moves slow when looking beyond all the interjections and chatter. There were just too many concepts and layers being built on top of the plot (instead of developing it) and so I found myself speed reading rather than truly enjoying it. And after all that building of the climax, when the conclusion came, I really saw how uninvested I was.

Two questions: Why would the EMTs be so concerned with potential litigation by oversharing or giving a prognosis of possible false hope, yet do such a ridiculous thing like give water to a trauma patient? And the surprise visit by the president? I almost wanted to give up reading when there was no mention of what would have taken place as protocol in preparation of a visit with the commander in chief. Perhaps waking to the sound of a sniffing dog would have sufficed, something, anything to help bridge these gaps in the scene when building up momentum for a story.

I will be looking forward to the next book though, I love and respect the concept about the Carls and I really do hope that there is more to them!

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