Category: Diane’s Favorites

Last Equation of Isaac Severy
March 6th, 2018 by diane92345

Complex and completely different from other thrillers, the Last Equation of Isaac Severy is highly recommended.

Isaac Severy is a famous mathematician.  Now retired, he is still working on his last equation: how to use chaos theory to predict Los Angeles traffic.  As the book opens, Isaac is preparing a breakfast for two in his home. The next day Isaac is found dead in his hot tub along with a set of live Christmas lights with a single bulb crushed. His death is accepted as a suicide. At his funeral, his adopted granddaughter, Hazel, opens a cryptic note from Isaac mailed the day before his death. Isaac tells Hazel that he is only the first of three people soon to die.  He commands her to destroy the work he left behind in a mysterious room 137 and deliver his last equation to the elusive John Raspanti. Hazel is advised to not involve other members of the family or the police. Isaac states that he selected Hazel for these tasks because she would be the least likely to be suspected. He says that he cannot do the tasks himself because he is being followed.

Isaac’s note leads Hazel on a merry chase through literature, mathematics and physics. Hazel works with various family members while trying to follow the instructions in Isaac’s puzzling letter.  Neither Hazel nor the reader can identify who is a hero and who is a villain.  This book has a multitude of side plots.   What is the elusive and wealthy P. Boone Lyons after?  Why is a physicist who has been dead for sixty years attempting to contact Hazel?

Ostensibly a thriller, the family dynamics are almost more intriguing. Phillip is a tenured physics professor at CalTech.  However, his opportunities of winning a coveted Nobel prize are slipping away and his best years are behind him. Tom is released from a long prison term.  Why was he in prison and how does that relate to Hazel and Gregory’s fear of his release?

Since the family relationships are rather confusing, I created this handy family tree.

Severy_Family_Tree

Since Isaac’s work is with chaos theory, it follows that the reader truly doesn’t understand what is going on until almost the end of the book. It is reminiscent of the movie Chinatown, where there are a multitude of plot layers that don’t cohere until the end. I like that uncertainty but some may not. However, the resolution definitely is worth the wait.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy is a brilliant tour-de-force from a debut author.  It is highly recommended to thriller readers.  It would also appeal to fans of quirky family dynamics like those in movie, The Royal Tenenbaums. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Touchstone Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: , , ,

Future of Humanity
February 21st, 2018 by diane92345

There are not enough synonyms for fantastic to adequately describe this book. I’ll just stick with awesome and awe-inspiring!

Written in layman’s terms, the Future of Humanity goes from mankind’s move to Mars to its eventual move to a new universe. It discusses what famous science fiction books, television shows and movies got right (surprisingly a lot) and what they got wrong (no fast trips through wormholes or suspended animation in the foreseeable future). The Future of Humanity also contains a brief history of science in tiny easily digestible bites.

The first third of the book talks about what will probably occur by the end of this century. The second part discusses the nut and bolts of how mindless robots, smart artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology will assist the colonization of our universe. It also tells how building a starship could be accomplished (once science solves some mysteries and reduces the price of creating antimatter). The final section discusses long-term travel issues and the changes to Earth and humanity required by the acceleration of the expansion of the universe initially caused by the Big Bang. The pesky problem of extending human life to live long enough to reach a distant planet is described. How humanity may be able to move apart from their physical bodies is investigated. An exploration of the possibilities of extraterrestrials and the string theory of the bubble universe concludes the book.

A enthralling and timely book merging science, pop culture, and intelligent guessing. The Future of Humanity is an intriguing, well-researched look into the future by a beloved scientist. Obviously, the first third is much more likely to occur. As the timeframe lengthens, the odds of prophecy being correct always goes down. However, this is a great peek into mankind’s possible future.

Highly recommended for science-fiction readers and writers. This book contains some great science-based plot ideas. It is also recommended for regular readers who enjoy a great and fact-based story. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Doubleday, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Non-fiction, Science Fiction Tagged with: , , ,

Night Moves
February 20th, 2018 by diane92345

Milo and Alex are back in a twisty and compelling tale.

The body was found in a quiet suburban Pacific Palisades neighborhood with its head disfigured by a shotgun blast and its hands removed. The residents, a family of four, claim to not know the victim. When Milo feels a strange vibe within the family, he calls on clinical psychologist, Alex Delaware, to informally evaluate them. After meeting the overbearing salesman father, the overprotective mother, the athletic son and possibly autistic daughter; Alex agrees that something is simmering just under the surface.

I loved this twisty tale. People that I pinned as the murderer came up dead. Motives were shuffled multiple times as I tried to solve the crimes before Alex and Milo. The ending totally blindsided me though looking back I could clearly see the red herrings and clues that I failed to identify correctly. The last few books in this series have been rather lackluster but Night Moves is one of the best! Highly recommended for series fans and also anyone wanting a good challenging mystery to solve from their armchair. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

Pestilence Vol 1
February 15th, 2018 by diane92345

Roderick is the leader of the Fiat Lux, the fighting arm of the Catholic Church in 1347. The Fiat Luz is tasked with taking the Pope to a safe house in England from his residence in the French countryside.

The world is in the middle of the plague of the Black Death. Eventually 20 million, or 60% of the population of Europe, will perish. Plague victims begin to rise from their graves becoming eaters of the living.

Wow, just wow! The art and especially the lettering of Pestilence Vol 1 perfectly set the mood and evoke the era. I loved the revisionist plot. It is hard to explain why without ruining the wonderful surprises within this excellent comic. Pestilence Vol 1 combines the best of historical fiction, adventure, horror and mystery. It is definitely for adults only and may offend some Christians, especially Catholics. For all others, it is highly recommended. While this is marketed as volume 1, it can be read as a stand-alone story. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Aftershock Comics, and NetGalley for an advance copy. Pestilence Vol 1 will be published February 20, 2018.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Graphic Novel, Horror Tagged with: ,

Smoke City
January 22nd, 2018 by diane92345

Have you ever thought, “Every plot has already been used so what’s the point in reading (or writing) another”? If so, Smoke City is going to surprise you. No book or movie is anywhere near its plot for imagination and creativity.

Smoke City is a captivating genre-smashing novel. Here are the major genres that are colliding like atoms within this novel:

  • Historical fiction (Joan of Arc’s death)
  • Horror (ghost story)
  • Tragedy (predestination during reincarnation)
  • Adventure (adult male bonding during a road trip)
  • Literary fiction (famous artist hits the skids)
  • Magical realism (see above)

It sounds like it would be a huge mess. But somehow it works!

Half-visible wraiths nicknamed smokes are appearing in Southern California and northern Mexico. Mike Vale, a washed up previously famous artist is desperately trying to get to a funeral in Los Angeles.

Mike picks up Marvin Deitz after Marvin is unceremoniously kicked out of his record store’s lease by his shady, possibly mob-connected, landlord. Marvin is convinced that he will die violently before his 57th birthday in a few days. Why? Throughout his multitude of reincarnations, he never lives to 57. Marvin is convinced he is being punished for executing Joan of Arc in 1431. His therapist thinks it is just a delusion. Convinced he has seen the current incarnation of Joan of Arc on a talk show, Marvin is going to Los Angeles in the hopes of finding forgiveness from a woman he has never met–at least in this lifetime.

On the way to LA, the pair pick up a stowaway, Casper. The plot continues to get curiouser and curiouser from there.

Deciding to read this book takes a leap of faith. There is no comparable book or movie to say it resembles. Smoke City was written by a relatively unknown writer and published by a small press. However, take this reviewer’s advice and read this book. It is truly fantastic and totally different from any other book you will read this year! Kirkus Reviews gushed (for them) that it was “strangely satisfying”. It is worth 5+ stars!

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Horror, Literary Fiction, Paranormal Tagged with: , ,

Wife Between Us
January 9th, 2018 by diane92345

The Wife Between Us is the whiplash-inducing thrill ride of 2018!

Nellie is about to marry the man of her dreams, Richard a hedge fund manager in New York City. Vanessa is jealous of her ex-husband Richard’s new fiancée and attempts to stop the wedding. The Wife Between Us starts as a classic triangle with alternating chapters narrated by the two women. In this simple shell hide many secrets and mysteries. What caused Vanessa’s marriage to crumble so abruptly? What happened to Nellie in college in Florida that makes her so fearful? Is Vanessa inheriting her mother’s mental illness possibly making her an unreliable narrator (like Girl on a Train)? Is Richard’s seemingly perfect personality just a facade (like American Psycho)? There are many clues to the plot twists to come hidden in plain sight for observant readers to find.

Many books have been called the next Gone Girl but this book gets this reviewer’s vote.  Both a psychological thriller and a mystery, The Wife Between Us is highly recommended as the best twisty pulse-pounding thrill ride of 2018. Beware that sleep will be lost as the book propels the reader to finish it in one sitting! 5 stars!

Thanks so much to the publisher, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: , ,

Hundred Small Lessons
December 20th, 2017 by diane92345

A Hundred Small Lessons is a haunting discourse about life wrapped around two families’ stories within a single house.

Elsie and Clem buy a newly built house soon after World War II is over. They have eight-year-old twins and Elsie finds the reason for her existence in motherhood. Sixty-one years later, the twins are almost seventy themselves and Clem is dead. After a bad fall at home, Elsie is shuttled quickly into a nursing home and the house is sold to a new family.

Lucy and Ben are just starting out with their young son. After finding the former owner’s overlooked family photos, Lucy begins to imagine Elsie’s life within the house.

A Hundred Small Lessons alternates between Elsie’s and Lucy’s stories. The language is languorous practically poetic. It feels as if the reader is dreaming, rather than reading, the story. The setting of Brisbane Australia, with its unbridled nature encroaching into everyone’s attempt at order, is a perfect and subtle metaphor for how life can never be controlled.

The holidays and the start of a new year are the time for reflection about the meaning of life and our place within it. Elsie and Clem’s life juxtaposed with Lucy and Ben’s depict one such meaning. Sometimes a book’s plot is just a starting point for thinking about one’s own life. While there is melancholia here, there is also something rather sweet about how life moves through its cycle regardless of our petty triumphs and struggles. As Clem so eloquently says,

All these moments, he thought as the boat edged away from the riverbank. They added up to something, but he could never quite see to what.

A Hundred Small Things is a book to slowly savor. Its evocative setting and thought-provoking plot are perfect starting points for deeper self-reflection. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Atria Books, for sponsoring the Goodreads giveaway that gave me this wonderful book.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Literary Fiction Tagged with: ,

Stay Fit for Life
November 7th, 2017 by diane92345

Stay Fit for Life provides quick workouts for older, rehabbing or sedentary adults with little additional equipment required.

With 62 exercises, 20 workout routines, and three levels of fitness programs, Stay Fit for Life covers all aspects of older adult fitness. There are modifications for most to make them easier or more difficult.  Many of the exercises also include a seated option. The pictures clearly show how to correctly perform all the exercises. Best of all the only equipment needed are a set of dumbbells, floor mat, chair and stair step. Most exercises don’t require anything more than some effort.  Each exercise states which of five abilities it will help the user to achieve.  The abilities include improved posture, greater strength, increased stability, better mobility, and more endurance. Many exercises hit more than one of the abilities.

The introduction of Stay Fit for Life includes some motivational facts such as every minute spent exercising after age 39 increases live span by 7 minutes and some frightening ones such as US emergency rooms treat an older adult for a fall every 11 seconds. There is even a quick six exercise self-assessment test to determine the reader’s fitness level prior to beginning a fitness program. The fitness programs each include four weeks of exercise routines with two days of rest each week. Day 1 of the beginner’s program only takes 12.5 minutes so it is hard to use lack of time as an excuse not to start exercising.

Stay Fit for Life is so great that I have already pre-ordered a hardcopy from Amazon. It is highly recommended for anyone who hasn’t exercised in years and wants a cheap, quick and easy way to start. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, DK, and Netgalley for an advanced review copy.  Stay Fit for Life will be published on November 14, 2017.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

The Real McCoys
November 6th, 2017 by diane92345

The Real McCoys is a cute humorous mystery for middle grade readers with perfect artwork.

Move over Encyclopedia Brown, Moxie McCoy is the new detective in town! Moxie is in fourth grade at Tiddlywhump Elementary School. She is also the sole remaining partner at M&M Inc. detective agency. Her partner, and best friend, Maude moved to California at the worst possible moment. Tiddlywhump’s mascot, Eddie the wise, and stuffed, owl is missing and only a great detective like Moxie can solve the crime. Moxie, who prefers to be called Slim when working a case, narrows down the list of suspects using the wisdom of Annabelle Adams. Annabelle is the star of 58 mystery books that Moxie has read 37 and a half times. Annabelle is obviously the long-lost cousin of Nancy Drew as she uses her wits and luck to get out of incredibly intricate situations. Moxie is also looking for a new detective partner and best friend before winter recess starts the following day.

The illustrations in The Real McCoys are excellent. They are used to perfection to move the plot forward. Many adult mysteries would be improved with illustrations like these. Moxie and the other residents of the school are believable while also being funny. Does Principal Jones really have an eel pit in her closet where she dangles errant students? Does Moxie’s teacher, Mrs. Bunyan, have a weird fascination with teeth? While solving the mystery, many moral lessons are slipped in like don’t jump to conclusions and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help when it’s needed. The mystery is handled well with many twists and turns in the plot. The resolution is both unexpected and perfect. Overall, this humorous mystery is perfect for ages 8 to 12. 5 stars!

I received The Real McCoys in a Goodreads giveaway but that has not impacted my review.

Posted in Children, Diane's Favorites Tagged with: , , ,

Kill Creek
October 31st, 2017 by diane92345

Beware, you may not sleep well after reading Kill Creek!

Kill Creek begins with four horror novelists agreeing to a live-streamed interview in a long abandoned haunted house in Kill Creek, Kansas.  The interviews are held on Halloween night and the novelists stay overnight within the house. All the novelists have different styles from a Stephen King-type horror veteran to a R.L. Stine-type Young Adult horror novelist. To say much more about the plot would spoil it. However, the aftermath of the interview is the best part of this excellent book.

Kill Creek is definitely not for the faint-of-heart.  There is a lot of violence.  However, the story is very innovative. It is clear that the author has a love of all things horror.  There is even a section that echoes a scene in the movie, Murder by Death.  The book is both intelligent atmospheric horror and plain scary. Think of the first Saw movie. I finished reading Kill Creek at night on my Kindle with all the lights off and no one else awake in the house.  I couldn’t fall asleep until dawn! However, I also just couldn’t stop reading! I love the insertion of a mystery within the horror genre.  Kill Creek is highly recommended. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Inkshares, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Horror, Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal Tagged with: ,

Big Book of Rogues and Villains
October 18th, 2017 by diane92345

Another great anthology from Otto Penzler, this time investigating crime.

Focusing on criminals from the Victorian era to modern day fiction, the Big Book of Rogues and Villains has something for everyone. Some of the bad guys are mostly good like Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder, who is more of a bungler than a burglar. Some are misunderstood like Dracula.  Others are pure evil like Dr. Fu Manchu. However, all are entertaining.  There is great value in this curated collection of 72 stories.  It has over 900 pages of criminal enterprises to delight readers with hours of pleasure.  It is also fun to jump from era to era and see how writing has changed over the decades.

The Big Book of Rogues and Villains is great for fans of traditional mysteries such as the Holmes or Christie canon. The author list sounds like a Who’s Who of great fiction from the last 150 years.  It includes Washington Irving, H.G. Wells, Sinclair Lewis and even O. Henry, who are best known for genres other than crime. There are many twentieth century authors that are unfamiliar to modern readers, which is a shame based on the skill of their stories located in this anthology.

Overall, this collection is highly recommended for readers of mystery stories of all kinds.  It is a great way to find new authors whose larger body of works are waiting for discovery by new readers.  5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, and netgalley for an advanced review copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

cover pic
September 10th, 2017 by diane92345

An Adult Bedtime Story Sure to Have You Laughing Before Snoring.

 

I absolutely adored this witty little graphic novel!

 

The beginning is a parody of the Night before Christmas.  It begins like this:

Our little boy Timmy,

Tucked tight into bed,

Looked nervously toward me

And quietly said,

“Daddy, please tell me,

Will everyone die

When asteroids tumble

And fall from on high?

 

Once the father starts reading, it is an alphabet book parody.  One of my favorites is:

I is for ISIS,

They’ll chop off your head,

Then give you no cookies

And send you to bed!

 

I have to limit myself to just those two quotes because it is tempting to quote the entire book as there is no filler here—everything is funny!

 

It is rare in a graphic novel to love both the text and the illustrations equally but that is true of my perceptions of this book.  When the father is not reading the book, the illustrations are in a photorealistic manner with accurate shadows and colors.  When reading the book, the illustrations are three color (black and white and one more primary color) cartoons.  The father’s reactions to each page are shown in a small inset at the bottom of each book page.  They are also hilarious!

 

Overall, this book is just hysterical.  I highly recommend it to anyone who could use a laugh (except small children, of course).  Trump supporters may also want to keep a sense of humor when getting to the T page (or just skip that one).

 

I want to thank the publisher, authors and netgalley for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book will be published October 10, 2017.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Graphic Novel, Humor, Science Fiction Tagged with:

Park Bench cover pic
August 29th, 2017 by diane92345

Just a marvelously heartwarming story about life through a park bench’s eyes. 

Park Bench opens with a young boy carving I heart U in a park bench. Throughout the seasons, people pass by the park bench.  Some sit for a while. Others sleep while avoiding the park’s police.  No words are spoken throughout the graphic novel.  However, occasionally the people use other objects to get their point across (like the I heart U in the beginning).  One particular vignette uses newspapers and graffiti very cleverly. The less you know of the book’s plot the better.

I just adored Park Bench. The ending was perfect!  The illustrations were excellent! I give my highest recommendation to Park Bench.  It can be read by all ages (since there are very few words) but adults will probably enjoy it the most.

11 stars (dang the stars only go up to 5) correction 5 dazzling stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Gallery 13, and netgalley for the advanced review copy in exchange for my honest review. The book will be available September 19, 2017.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Graphic Novel

Don't Let Go Cover Pic
August 14th, 2017 by diane92345

Don’t Let Go is another riveting psychological thriller by Mr. Coben!

Nap lost his twin brother, Leo, and Leo’s girlfriend, Diana, one high school night to a train collision.  The same night Nap’s girlfriend, Maura, disappeared.  When Don’t Let Go begins, it is fifteen years later. Nap is a police detective. Previously, Nap had run Maura’s fingerprints in the system but nothing was found.  Then one day Maura’s fingerprints appear at a murder scene. The homicide detective investigating the murder contacts Nap.  Additional information forces Nap to reconsider the “facts” of that night fifteen years ago.

 

Don’t Let Go was a real page turner.  I was reading this book at work, at home, at traffic signals and everywhere else.  It was that compelling.  I love twisty thrillers and Don’t Let Go has that in abundance. I have read many thrillers so usually I can see the conclusion coming.  Not in this case!  The clues were all there but cleverly concealed.  The ending was fantastic and unexpected.

 

I would recommend this book for anyone who likes a good mystery or thriller. It would be perfect for fans of John Sandford and James Patterson’s Alex Cross series. It is especially recommended to those readers who like to try to solve the mystery before the detective.  Don’t Let Go is a stand-alone thriller. Even though the author has written twenty-eight previous books and I’ve read them all as they were published, I would recommend starting with Don’t Let Go. Mr. Coben is at the top of his game and his profession. Reading Don’t Let Go first will compel you to read the others.  5 stars!

 

Thanks to the publisher, Dutton, and Netgalley for an advanced review copy of Don’t Let Go in exchange for my honest review.  This book will be published on September 26, 2017.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with:

Cover pic
July 30th, 2017 by diane92345

Propels the plot forward significantly plus fantastic ending!

The Walking Dead graphic novels must be read in order and to summarize any part of this plot will be SPOILERS for the previous volumes. So reader beware!

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown… Rick decided, after consulting with Negan, at the end of volume 25 to build an army within his group of three groups. In this volume, he starts purposefully using anti-whisperers propaganda to veer the citizens’ minds away from blaming him for the deaths during the last volume. It doesn’t work for one person who is out for revenge.

The plot seems to move faster than usual as many different balls are in the air. The ending is a real shocker that was a total surprise. I would highly recommend this volume if you are a reader of the series. I have to admit that I almost stopped reading the series around volume 17 but now I’m glad I didn’t. Volume 26 is a compelling read that is not to be missed!

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Graphic Novel, Horror Tagged with: ,

July 23rd, 2017 by diane92345

Genre-bending sci-fi mythological humorous apocalyptical romance.

Holy Crap! The World is Ending! has something for everyone. A woman meets her soulmate in a Barnes & Noble just as an asteroid is about to collide with Earth. There is something otherworldly about his looks but little does our heroine know. He is actually an alien sent to Earth to determine whether humankind can stop battling each other long enough to be moved to another planet.

Okay, the plot I just described seems lame but the book is actually fascinating and humorous. The author throws in hundreds of pop culture references (i.e., Harry Potter, Duck Dodgers, the illuminati, Bigfoot). There are many similarities between the alien names and Sumerian mythology. To say any more would be a spoiler. The romance is heartfelt and believable. The interactions between the heroine’s friends are hilarious. Which would you say is more likely to float-a raft made of Twinkies or Ding Dongs? I have to side with the Ding Dongs personally.

Even though this book is hard to categorize to recommend it for a particular type of reader, that is also its charm. I would highly recommend it to anyone bored of formulaic stories. It would also be a good choice for fans of The Simpsons for its humor and free use of decades of pop culture references. It has some R-rated sex scenes so it wouldn’t be appropriate for readers under 16.

Thanks to the publisher, Alien Abduction Press, and netgalley for an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be published on September 21, 2017.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Romance, Science Fiction Tagged with: , , ,