Wednesday, November 14, 2012

'Wool Omnibus'

'Word-of-mouth', or, should I say 'Word-of-Facebook', is so very valuable when it comes to promoting movies, blogs, and books.*

Especially books.

Publishers have taken to Facebook (and now, Pinterest) to promote titles by interacting with potential readers.  They offer 'freebies' and podcasts and author appearances at reading group gatherings.  Major publishers are great advocates of 'newbie' authors who have published their first book, or have changed genres.

But nothing can promote a book faster than word-of-mouth.  I do it all the time, via Facebook, Twitter, Book Hog, and (my favorite) while I'm browsing in a bookstore (my old bookselling skills are alive and well).  

And it was through Facebook that I learned about one of the most intriguing science fiction novels that I have ever read.  'Wool', by Hugh Howey, is (for want of a better word) unputdownable.  I was told that I would need at least a day or two to read it, but I found myself reluctant to see it end.  Whoever edited the story did a brilliant job; someone's diamond eye was focused on the details, and for that, I am very grateful.  

'Wool' is a post-apocalyptic story of life in a silo.  That's right; a silo filled with hundreds of occupants of all ages.  If an occupant says, "I want to go outside" in front of witnesses, he or she has instantly pronounced their death sentence.  Such people are called 'cleaners'; they are sent outside to clean the lenses that show the underground occupants a view of the outside.  After their chore is finished, the cleaner walks over hills toward the toxic fallen city, where they soon find their end.

Everyone in the silo knows what will happen, but they keep quiet, afraid that they might be the next sent outside.  But there are a few people who question the laws made to protect them.  One in particular, Juliette, a brilliant mechanic who has lived and worked near the bottom tiers of the silo almost all her life, is one of those who questions, and isn't afraid to find the answers.  And she is brilliant.  But what she discovers is one of the cruelest jokes of all.

This is not a typical science fiction novel.  And neither is there a sense of claustrophobia.  It is written with love for the characters, and the dialogue is short and sweet.  'Wool' is action-packed; I feverishly turned the pages and discovered dark secrets and lies right along with the beautifully-realized characters.  Surprises abound, tears were shed.

Believe me, this is an instant classic.

And I can't say enough about it.  Read 'Wool' and send the author your response.

We need to encourage this man to continue with his most brilliant career.

*Thank you, Angie, for your most brilliant recommend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

'Kill You Twice'

Just the other day, I received a phone call from my local library, informing me that a couple books on my reserve list had finally made it into the branch.  So, I went in, and there were the books, sitting on the Hold shelf with my name in them.

And there was 'The One'.  'The One' I'd been dying to read ever since it was first published.  

'Dying' is an apt word to use when it comes to 'The One', it being 'Kill You Twice', written by the phenomenal Chelsea Cain.

I ended up borrowing five books in all that day, but Chelsea's book received my immediate attention.

I finished it in one day.  I couldn't stop turning pages, despite the fact that the dog needed a walk, and dirty laundry was calling my name.  I ignored it all and gave Chelsea's book the respect it so richly deserves.

If you have read the other books in the series, you are aware that the stories center on the strange relationship between Archie Sheridan, a Portland police detective, and Gretchen Lowell, a cool blonde serial killer and Archie's former lover.  Gretchen is clever and so very intelligent...but then, Archie knows her tactics very, very well.  Of all her victims, he was the only one who lived to tell about it.   

Although Gretchen doesn't really show up in the third ('Evil at Heart') and fourth ('The Night Season') books, her presence is felt.

But she's back in 'Kill You Twice'...and she's still a horrible, infuriating, brilliant woman, despite the fact that she's drugged and locked up in maximum security at the state mental hospital.  Gretchen has some secrets, one quite major.  And Archie, finally coming to terms with his life and growing stronger every day, knows exactly how to 'play' her for information.  Their 'cat-and-mouse' relationship is a joy to behold.  Chelsea has a knack for bringing her characters to life; burning them into our memories, making us care, despite the fact that a few of them are mentally deranged.

In 'Kill You Twice', the first murder victim is discovered at Mt. Tabor, hanging from a tree.  And next, a crispy corpse is found laying under the former 'Made in Oregon' sign (Chelsea knows her Portland!).  Could this be the work of a copycat killer?  Or has Gretchen escaped? 

Susan, the intrepid, clever reporter, is back and her investigative skills were never sharper.  I have to say that I'm very happy that Susan's hippy mother, Bliss, has a larger role in the whole plot.    

But, most of all, we are given glimpses into Gretchen's past, discoveries that are slowly peeled back like the layers of an onion.

And her secret?  I'm not talking.  That's something you'll have to discover for yourself if you can get through the violence and gore.  But if you're as big a fan as me, that's trivial.

It's the marvelous relationship between Archie and Gretchen that makes you turn the pages.

Thanks, Chelsea, for bringing her back.  She was missed, scalpel and all.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

'Homer's Odyssey'

There are times in our lives when we need something a bit unexpected.  A surprise.  A hopeful surprise.

We also need to discover that someone else, just like us, has gone through success and failure without becoming 'hardhearted' and pessimistic.  It brings us closer to the human experience and teaches us that despite life's little setbacks, we can always move on, comfortable in the knowledge that we are not alone.

There are also times when someone or something comes into our lives when we need them most; the someone or something that shields us against pessimism with their shining spirit.

That is exactly what I found while reading Gwen Cooper's incredible book, 'Homer's Odyssey'.

Homer is a cat, but not your ordinary, 'garden variety' cat (but what cat isn't unique?).  When he was a mere two weeks old, Homer was rescued and taken to a vet, who discovered that the little guy had a life-threatening eye infection.  To save his life, the vet did the only thing she could do:  She surgically removed his eyes.  The couple who had found him could not adopt him, and the vet could not find anyone who would take him in.  That is, until she called Gwen, one of her customers who had two cats.

It was love at first sight.  Homer grew into a three-pound dynamo, able to leap tall bookcases in a single bound.  He became a master fly killer (seriously).  And he saved Gwen's life.

Full of joy, optimism, and a huge amount of love, 'Homer's Odyssey' is quite unlike any other animal book I've ever read.  I laughed so hard.  But the tears...the tears really flowed when I read the chapter about 9/11 (Gwen lived close to the site of the World Trade Center).  Gwen could not get back to her beloved Homer, Vashti and Scarlett for days.  She tried everything in her power to rescue them as images of the worst possible scenarios regarding them were constantly on her mind:  What if a window had broken and Homer escaped, never to find his way back home?  What if they had run out of food and water?  What if she was never able to hold them again?  It's a tense chapter and you'll want to send a big, fat check to the ASPCA.  

The remarkable, amazing little Homer is the true centerpiece of this story, and you will cheer him on.  You will be astounded when you read about his resourceful nature.  It seems that we all need a Homer in our lives.

And you will learn that love doesn't require having a set of eyes.