The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

impossiblefortressA cute coming-of-age novel about a boy, a computer, a Playboy magazine and first love.

Billy and his awkward friends are in love with Vanna White, the girl-next-door who flips the letters on Wheel of Fortune. When some pictures of Vanna appear in Playboy, they know they have to get that magazine, at any cost.

One problem, none of them are even close to eighteen years old.

This was the moment of truth- the moment I’d rehearsed with Alf and Clark again and again. They’d coached me to keep my pitch exactly the same- to speak the words like I used them all the time: “Just some Tic Tacs,” I said, “And a Playboy.” pg 29

Part of this story is enjoying the humor and innocence of the boys in an era before the internet. The other part of this story, the one that occupied my book club, was reminiscing about technology and early computers.

We spent most of the time at book club talking about what our first computers were, who knew coding, and what were our favorite early games.

“If I was serious about Planet Will Software, I couldn’t work on a Commodore 64 much longer. Newer computers offered more memory and better graphics, and C64s would be obsolete in another year or two. I needed to upgrade to the latest technology, and the contest was my best chance to do it.” pg 43

That part of the evening seemed to entertain the older members of our book club more than me. It’s not that I didn’t have an early computer, I did, I was more interested in the coming-of-age part of this story and the heist-type scenarios the boys go through to get their dirty magazine.

I also enjoyed Billy’s struggles to understand Mary and the cute dynamic between them. I liked learning about his loyalty to his friends and his dreams for future computer programming greatness.

“I’m going to make video games,” I said. “I’m going to start my own company, and I’ll only hire cool people.” pg 81

If I ever start my own company, in whatever business sector that it may be (not computer programming), I’ll only hire cool people too.

Recommended for book clubs or if you just want a sweet, light read by the pool, The Impossible Fortress just may fit the bill.

Thanks for reading!

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The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue

motionofpuppetsThe Motion of Puppets is a clever play on an ancient Roman myth.

Orpheus was a musician who was so talented he could charm the birds from the sky and make the forest spirits weep. He madly loved a woman named Eurydice.

One day, she stepped on a serpent and died. Orpheus nearly lost his mind out of grief for her. So, he made his way to the underworld to beg Lord Hades for his bride.

Orpheus plays such sweet music that Persephone weeps and Hades allows the bard to take the shade of his dead wife back to the living world. There’s one condition, he can’t look back to see if she’s following.

I think we all know what happened then. This book takes that tragedy and places it in the modern world.

Everything is fine until Theo’s wife, Kay, goes missing. “She should be more responsible, should know that he would worry, but he could hear her laughing it off when she came home. You’ll give yourself ulcers, she’d say. You fret too much. I just went out for croissants.” pg 18

He assumes she stumbled into the bed of one of her coworkers and is sleeping off a hangover. But the truth is much worse.

Kay has been transformed into something else, something magical and monstrous. “We lucky few can move about as long as the people are not watching. Midnight to first light, we are free.”pg 41

She is trapped in a metaphorical “underworld,” ruled over by an ancient power and his minions. “You cannot go home,” he said. “You cannot ever leave the Back Room.” pg 76

Even if Theo can figure out where she’s gone, how on earth will Kay go back to the shape she had before?

Keith Donohue has crafted a clever and haunting novel, putting a horror-tinged lens on the myth.

“And, besides, let me tell you a secret: all art needs a little sadness in it, a small tragedy to balance the human comedy.” pg 111

Like Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann’s musical take on Orpheus and Eurydice, the elements of the original story are in both works of art. I think The Motion of Puppets is more weird and other-worldly.

To truly enjoy this tale, you have to be willing to believe in magic.

Highly recommended for readers who like twists on mythology or not-too-terrifying horror stories.

If you like mythological re-tellings, you may also enjoy The Snow Child or Circe.

Thanks for reading!

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

undertheharrowNora’s sister is dead. Through the fog of her grief, one thing is clear: Nora is going to find out who did it. And she’s going to make him pay.

The sky foams, like the spindrift of a huge unseen wave is bearing down on us. Who did this to you, I wonder…” pg 9.

As she frantically tries to piece together the last days of Rachel, her sister’s life, Nora discovers things she never knew about her secretive sibling. There are some secrets that should have gone to the grave…

“He might have come in the house on one of the days he watched her. She left a key under the mat, he could have let himself in when she was at work or asleep.” pg 62

Like other thrillers, Under the Harrow slowly dishes out the clues to the mystery and introduces elements of danger just when the reader is starting to feel comfortable.

“There are too many people I don’t recognize, which I hadn’t expected. I thought I would be able to note any strangers. Whoever did it might come today.” pg 69

It also flirts with the “unreliable narrator” trope. Not in an annoying, over-done way, but, just enough so it makes the reader question the bits of information we are receiving.

Is what we’re learning true or only true in Nora’s mind?

“I wanted both of us to forget what we had learned. For the past five years, I’ve pretended that we did forget, and ignored any signs otherwise.” pg 83.

Readers experience Nora passing through the stages of grief, sometimes making better choices than other times. She desperately misses her sister.

“It is so easy to think about her. Each memory links to another one, and time doesn’t seem to pass at all. I sit for hours remembering, until the first commuters, unbearably sad, begin to arrive, waiting in the darkness on the platform for the early train to London.” pg 111

Recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers and quick reads. At less than 250 pages, you can finish this book in one afternoon. I did. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Rooms by Lauren Oliver
roomsThe patriarch of a family has recently died. The home he leaves behind is haunted and his family comes to divide up the remains of his earthly possessions.

Secrets are about to be revealed that concern both the living and the dead.

Rooms is part-mystery and part-family drama. My favorite characters were the ghosts and their interactions with each other.

“We expand into all five bedrooms. We hover in the light coming through the windows, with the dust; we spin, dizzy in the silence. We slide across empty dining room chairs, skate across the well-polished table, rub ourselves against the oriental carpets, curl up in the impressions of old footprints.” pg 12, ebook.

Though they are stuck together in the same house, the two ghosts couldn’t be more different. It makes for some amusing dialogue.

“I’ve never been one to sugarcoat the truth, and at least I’ve still got a sense of humor, even if I’m all splinters and dust everywhere else. That’s another thing that drives me crazy about Alice: no sense of humor at all.” pg 34, ebook.

The living characters of this story have some serious problems.

There’s Minna, a nymphomaniac with a young daughter. Her brother, Trenton, a perpetually insecure teen with suicidal tendencies. And their mother, Caroline, an aging alcoholic.

To make matters worse, Trenton’s starting to hear disembodied voices in the house.

“In the quiet, Trenton heard it again. A voice. Not quite a voice, though. More like a shape: a solidity and pattern to the normal creakings and stirrings of the house. It was the way he’d felt as a kid listening to the wind through the trees, thinking he could make sense out of it.” pg 52, ebook.

As if they didn’t have enough problems.

“That’s what a broken heart looks like,” she said, and stood up. “Like a haunting.” pg 64, ebook.

Strangely enough, I recently read another book with a ghost’s point of view. The Last To See Me by M. Dressler is about a ghost trying to stay alive and solve the mystery of her previous life, before the person hunting her could discover it and use it to destroy her.

I compared The Last To See Me to this book and, I confess, I liked Dressler’s book more. Dressler has fewer characters, but she gives those few more depth.

I felt like Lauren Oliver, though she did develop her characters, struggled a bit to fit all of the different story lines together. I did like the ending of Rooms.

Recommended for readers who like their mystery with a touch of the paranormal. Age appropriate for mature teens and up because of the sexual content, hints of abuse and suicide themes.

Thanks for reading!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

amancalledoveA Man Called Ove is indeed about a man named Ove. He’s depressed. His wife died and he wants nothing more than to join her.

But, somehow, life itself seems to be conspiring to keep him alive.

To borrow a line from Shrek: Ove is like an onion.

On the outside, his personality is kinda smelly and makes people cry. But, he has layers.

This story takes apart those layers.

Highly recommended to me by one of my book club members and my mother-in-law. A Man Called Ove is a treat. I highly recommend it, now, too.

Thanks for reading!

Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga #4) by Pierce Brown

Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga #4) by Pierce Brown

irongoldDarrow led an uprising and smashed the hierarchy that had held the worlds in its thrall. Now, ten years later, he is discovering the difficulties of maintaining rule and stamping out the last of the old regime.

More than anything else, Darrow is sick of war. Yet, unrest dogs his every step.

“I remember when you told me I was a good man who’d have to do bad things,” I say. “Your stomach go soft? Or have you spent so much time with politicians that you’ve forgotten what the enemy looks like?” pg 21.

The government Darrow and his allies have crafted out of the former rebellion is divided in how to proceed. The enemy is entrenched on the planets nearest the sun… and also the planets furthest from it.

“Like you, I wish for nothing more than peace. I wish for a world where the machine of war does not swallow our young. … Our enemies have held dominion over us for too long. First as slaves, then adversaries. And what stability, what harmony can we bring to the worlds we have freed while they continue to define us?” pg 89.

Pierce Brown has crafted a satisfying return to his dystopian world with characters readers loved from his first three books.

We also get to meet a few new ones like a wily thief who gets in over his head and a kind, young Red who discovers The Reaper’s new world isn’t anything like it was portrayed on the holos.

There’s sweeping speeches and heart-pounding battle scenes. Brown’s newest book is incredibly entertaining.

I have two regrets though.

The first is I read the other books so long ago, I forgot many of the small details. If I had it to do over again, I’d re-read the first trilogy before hopping into this one.

“It is our duty to embrace the scars our choices give us, to embrace and remember our mistakes, else we live believing our own myth.”pg 316.

The second is Brown hasn’t written his next book yet and he ends on, what seems to be for him, a signature cliffhanger.

I refused to read the first three books until the trilogy was complete because I really don’t like waiting for the next entry in a series.

“The key to learning, to power, to having the final say in everything, is observation. By all means, be a storm inside, but save your movement and wind till you know your purpose.” pg 355.

It’s a nod to Brown’s genius that I purchased this new title from the book store. I’m a library patron through and through, but this is one that is worth owning.

Here’s hoping Brown writes really fast.

Highly recommended for science fiction and dystopian fans. Start with Red Rising.

Thanks for reading!

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue

roomTold from a 5-year-old’s point of view, Room is the story of Jack, his mother and the room that they never leave. To Jack’s mother, it is a prison. To Jack, it’s just the world.

“…it was a garden shed to begin with. Just a basic twelve-by-twelve, vinyl-coated steel. But he added a sound-proofed skylight, and lots of insulating foam inside the walls, plus a layer of sheet lead, because lead kills all sound. Oh, and a security door with a code. He boasts about what a neat job he made of it.” pg 85.

Jack and his mother have no contact with the outside world, except for ‘Old Nick’ who only comes at night, brings food and the occasional ‘Sunday treat.’

They are his prisoners.

“…we mustn’t try and hurt him again. When he came back the next night, he said, number one, nothing would ever make him tell me the code. And number two, if I ever tried a stunt like that again, he’d go away and I’d get hungrier and hungrier till I died.” pg 97.

Though this book covers some seriously dark subject matter, it is told through the point-of-view and voice of a child.

At first, I didn’t like it, but then I realized- hearing the story from Jack made it bearable. I think if we had heard it from his mother’s point of view, it would have been too bleak.

Jack confuses television and reality because he’s never been outside ‘room’: “Women aren’t real like Ma is, and girls and boys not either. Men aren’t real except Old Nick, I’m not actually sure if he’s real for real. Maybe half? He brings groceries and Sunday treat and disappears the trash, but he’s not human like us. He only happens in the night, like bats. Maybe Door makes him up with a beep beep and the air changes. I think Ma doesn’t like to talk about him in case he gets realer.” pg 18.

The beauty of this story is in the resiliency of Jack and the love he and his mother have for each other. They keep each other going when life becomes unbearable.

There are also some surprising twists to the story too.

I loved it.

I took the time to watch the movie after I read the book and it is a great adaptation. Not, of course, as stellar as the book, but well worth the time.

Highly recommended, but keep your tissue box close.

Thanks for reading!