Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Pages: 479.

How it was obtained: Susan got it for my birthday.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: About a month.

Days spent reading it: 3 days.

Why I read it: I ran across a copy at a bookstore and thought the premise sounded interesting.

Brief review: Holy cow. After reading the first chapter I was hooked. A few more chapters in and the action begins and does not quit. Ever. I loved it. The premise of the book is simple, what if men's thoughts were broadcast out loud for everyone to hear? And that's what happens in this book. Prentisstown is filled with men (just men, no women) whose thoughts are out there for the world to see. It is a form of germ warfare that left the women dead and the men with unfiltered thoughts exposed to the world.  They call it "the Noise."

But there are secrets in Pretisstown, and as soon as Todd Hewitt begins to discover a few of these secrets his life changes dramatically and he is forced to flee Prentisstown. As far as the plot goes, that's all I am willing to divulge.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is full of incredible plot twists, revelations, and action. I could not put it down. Ness writes a captivating story that makes you want to press on just a little bit further every time you want to put the book down. I love that.

I would definitely recommend this book. It is marketed as a Young Adult book, but the violence (there is a lot of violence), occasional cursing (including one f-bomb, and many substitutes), and undercurrents of despair would keep me from recommending this outright to youth. Parents should be discerning. On the other hand the premise is very relevant to teens today.  The author thought about the idea of the "Noise" is based on the fact that information is becoming more and more prevalent.  With social media like facebook it is harder to keep information controlled.  It's just out there, noise.  What if we could not get away?  What if we could never unplug?  That thought of not unplugging is what makes the premise behind the plot so compelling. This book was definitely worth reading, and is one of my favorites so far this year. I highly recommend.

Favorite quote: "The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking."

Stars: 5 out of 5.

Final Word: Non-stop.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Title: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Pages: 493.

How it was obtained: I bought it just before we came to Thailand, thinking I might read it on the plane.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 8 months.

Days spent reading it: 3 days.

Why I read it: I ran into the book a few times from browsing or seeing book recommendations and decided to check it.

Brief review: About 75 pages into the book I almost put it down for good. I was so confused and disappointed I just about called it quits. By page 100 I could not put it down. The rest of the book flew by, and I could not praise it enough. I understand why Connie Willis wrote the first 75 pages like she did, but it sure annoyed me. But listen to this, if you can endure those first 75 pages you will find a delightful, funny, chaotic, and charming book. The main character Ned Henry, is a time traveler who is sent back in time to find the bishop's bird stump. The fact that this object is not explained for almost 300 pages did irk me, and was entirely unnecessary. In his search, Ned gets a bad case of time lag and is ordered to find rest. He jumps to Victorian era England, and that is when the book begins to shine. Willis' writing style vaguely reminded me of P.G. Wodehouse (although Willis is not nearly as outright funny or entertainingly absurd).

Ned runs into a fellow time traveler, Verity, who may have accidentally set in motion the destruction of the space-time continuum by taking something into the future which should not have been taken. I know I am not doing this book justice in rehashing the plot (because the plot just gets crazier and crazier). Let me just say there is a little bit of everything in this book. It reads almost like a timeless classic novel with an additional touch of sci-fi, and mystery, and a lot of wit.

I do not think this book is for everyone, but I would definitely recommend it to people who are up for something a little more unique. Here is a book that breaks from traditional genre boundaries and is not quite like anything I have ever read before.

Favorite quote: "Come here, cat. You wouldn't want me to destroy the space-time continuum, would you?"

Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Word: Unpredictable.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ghost by Fred Burton

Title: Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent by Fred Burton

Pages: 275.

How it was obtained: I borrowed it from a friend.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 1 week.

Days spent reading it: 1 week.

Why I read it: Since I've talked about dreaming about being a spy, my friend Kristen suggested I read this real life account of a counterterrorist. She handed me this book and told me it was fascinating. Of course I had to read it after that glowing endorsement!

Brief review: This is the story of Fred Burton, a cop who joins the Diplomatic Security Service. On his first day he is put into the Counterterrorism branch, a division in the 1980s that consisted of 1 veteran, and now 2 rookies. And his story is gripping. As Burton is thrown into the underworld of terrorism in the 80s, he makes it clear that America was in a very precarious position in our security measures. Burton becomes an expert on the Middle East.

Burton's tale is intriguing, scary, and informative. It will force you to think about all the work that goes into keeping America safe. Even though most of the book is written about the 80s and 90s, it is so poignant to today's milieu. 9/11 looms ever present in the background of Burton's narrative. He sees it coming, and he sees something like it coming again because when people want to destroy your way of life, they will find a way around the security measures and safety measures you have developed over time. There are gaps in security everywhere. That is the haunting part about reading this book.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the counterterrorism efforts of America. Burton loves his country. But more importantly, the part I really liked about this book, is that Burton never seems to lose his sense of moral right and wrong. He begins to see more shades of gray, but he makes a clear declaration that some things are good and some things are evil. What a breath of fresh air from the often ambiguous "Dark World." There is a lot we can learn from Burton's work as a DSS agent, and it made for compelling reading.

Favorite quote: "Justice became just another bargaining chip. This is the way the world works. We've got to make these deals if we're ever going to bring the cartels down and take out their leadership. Still the idea that U.S. Marshals have to guard a man like Victor makes my skin crawl. Though logically I recognize that the Dark World is morally ambiguous, I cling to my black-and-white view of things. Right and wrong, they are the pillars of what I stand for and believe in. But the big gray gap between them just got a little bigger today…. I've got to be careful in this business. If I let it own me, I'll lose my moral compass like so many others in the past."

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Final Word: Spooky.