Year One by Nora Roberts

IMG_20180306_125157_341Year One is a wonderfully well written science fiction / fantasy novel that will suck you in and captivate you by it’s characters. As the new year rings in, a new apocalyptic world develops where a dark and mysterious disease with no cure insight known as “the doom” takes a human life each second throughout the world. As witches, fae, elves and shape shifters (of good and evil) emerge as the more dominant race as many humans are dropping off the face of the Earth, the only humans who do survive are somehow immune to “the doom”. 

The main characters Lana and Max who are both witches living in NYC, realize they must finally leave the city they love so much if the are going to survive in this new world as it has now become overrun by “the doom”, mobs of angry rioters known as the “riders” and some sort of dark magical force. Max leads the way to Pennsylvania in hopes of reaching his young warlock brother Eric who is safe in a cabin in the woods. While at the cabin, Lena discovers she is pregnant with Max’s baby and once again these two (or now three) are in danger. Eric and his spunky girlfriend have turned and are consumed with dark magic determined to destroy “the one” within Lana. Through a heart breaking dual between two brother’s Max annihilates Eric in order to protect Lana and his baby. With a sadden heart, the Max, Lana and the unborn baby head towards the middle of the country and then South in hopes of finding a more stable environment to survive.

Secondary main characters such as Chuck who is a tech genius from Hoboken, NJ, Arlys the journalist from NYC who is with her overly optimistic female fae colleague Fred know they too must find a safer place to be. Rachel the successful Brooklyn doctor and Jonah the paramedic who has the ability to see death within people before it takes hold of them and Katie who’s the new mother of twins and an infant know they must survive and exit the city via boat to NYC and head West then South. Along the way, the lives of these characters intersect and ultimately, they all come together in hopes of having a new and stable life in a town they named New Hope. As more and more survivors roll into New Hope, life is looking better, as everyone has something to offer whether it be that they’re one of the “Un-canning” (non-human magical folk) or human. Unfortunately chaos breaks when Eric returns high in the sky with consumed with more evil power and kills Max instantly. Feeling the magic grown inside her daughter and knowing Eric will not cease until her and her daughter are dead, Lena, who is far along in her pregnancy flees New Hope embarking on a journey of her own to survive. 

Dirty, weak and nearly starving Lana stumbles upon a small farm tucked away in the woods and is taken in by the kind and handsome ex-US Army Captain named Simon Swift. The two are skeptical of each other at first, but ultimately end up helping each other and become great companions. Simon helps to deliver Lana’s baby and from that moment of birth they’re a family. Fast forward to the beginning of a new year, a mysterious bearded man on horseback named Mallick arrives to pay tribute to “the one” (Fallon, Lana’s daughter). He informs Lana and Simon that “Her coming has been written, sung and foretold. One year ago today, the fabric ripped, the scales tipped when the blood of the damned defiled holy ground. So the purge followed, and magick strikes back, you have nothing to fear of me” (location 6102, via Kindle version). Malick informs them that when Fallon is thirteen, he will come back for her and take her for two years of training to become what she was born to become. Malick then gives baby Fallon a ball of crystals that only she will be able to use and a pink teddy bear and vanishes, leaving the reader Lena and Simon in thoughts of confusion. The story ends as what I consider a cliff hanger, because while story has finished, a new one has begun. 

This new novel by Nora Roberts is the perfect story to devour if you are a True Blood and/or The Walking Dead fan. Set to be a series, this is book one, and while it is filled with despair, loss, fear and sorrow it is also extremely adventurous, captivating, exciting, hopeful and at times humorous. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am on heels of anticipation for the sequel. Happy reading! 5 stars – Loved it. 

Top 10 Books I Read in 2017

It was a busy year when it came to reading and out of the 32 books I completed (ranging from children’s books, to sci-fi, to murder/mystery, to fiction, historical fiction and audio books), I have narrowed down my favorites to 10 finalists. The winners are

IMG_20171111_172307_6451. THERE WAS AN OLD MUMMY WHO SWALLOWED A SPIDER BY JENNIFER WARD – is an illustrated Halloween children’s book filled with silly rhythmic and funny words perfect for capturing any young child’s attention. In short, a mummy wakes up from his sleep and sees a spider and decides to swallow it. Throughout the story he continues to swallow an eclectic range of items and living organisms making any child squirm and squeal with skepticism and delight. With phrases like “He swallowed the ghost to scare the witch….” and “He swallowed the rate to chase the spider” the reader wonders what on Earth the mummy will swallow next. Will it be another strange item or will it perhaps be you? Definitely worth picking up for any young reader who enjoys Halloween and being silly.  Category: Children’s Picture Book
https://g.co/kgs/SshH9b

IMG_20171024_164700_3832. THE CRUCIBLE BY ARTHUR MILLER – One of my all time favorite plays and classic pieces of literature. Miller’s play captures the essence of the contagious and rapid insanity of “witchcraft” hysteria during the years of 1692 and 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. Through descriptive character development Arthur Miller takes the readers on a journey back in time to witness the chaos, torture, desperation and despair. Through these accusations and ultimate deaths of many of the characters, Arthur Miller eloquently displays how men at that time used religion as a means of control to achieve a desired outcome. They used the fear of God to persuade people to conform whether they wanted to or not, which is against the true meaning or message of Christianity. The Crucible’s strong undertone proves how corrupt man’s spirit can be despite religious affiliation and how righteous a man’s spirit can be even if he has committed sin. Witchcraft be only the icing on top of this cake. In the event that you haven’t absorbed this play yet, please consider it a must read and place it on your “to be read” list as it is written beautifully and touches upon human characteristic flaws and how if provided a spark everything will ignite. Remember, history does repeat itself.
Category: Historical Fiction, History, Plays, Dramatic Theater
https://g.co/kgs/fUZjRp

IMG_20171025_095500_9983. ROOM ON THE BROOK BY JULIA DONALDSON –  A delightfully illustrated children’s book perfect for Halloween time. It’s a simple, short and entertaining rhythmic story about a witch who shares her broom with a dog, a cat, a frog and a bird. With the simple teachings of being kind to others and they’ll be kind to you, this is a funny and cute story to read to little ones this Halloween season.
Category: Children’s Picture Book, Halloween
https://g.co/kgs/ENLLPG

IMG_20171016_145520_7394. LIES SHE TOLD BY KATE HOLAHAN– Ever tell that lie so much that you’ve come to believe it yourself? Is there a distinct line between fiction and non-fiction? One never really knows except the story teller as the truth normally dies with them. This is a mind-boggling, line blurring, cross over of fiction versus non-fiction suspenseful murder/mystery novel in which the author, Cate Holahan engulfs the reader into the similarly complex lives of Liza and Beth. This makes the reader ponder which is the lie and which is the truth. A must read for anyone who enjoys character manipulation, suspense, murder/mystery, psychological drama and mind games. I highly recommend this novel as a must read for Fall as I haven’t read a story like this before.
Category: Murder/Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Fiction
https://g.co/kgs/dmK7sM

IMG_20170922_131010_3365. DARK MATTER BY BLAKE CROUCH – if you had to look at yourself standing right in front of yourself, would you trust that other version of you? This novel of science-fiction, mystery and quantum mechanics turns into a game of chess, a battle against his own thoughts (Jason, the main character) and a survival of the fitness leading into much suspense and murder. A fast paced, engaging and contemplating novel is an excellent read and leaves the reader in awe. Remember, life is laid out in a matter of minutes and in each minute we have a choice. Depending on what you choose will alter all the other minutes in your life. What choice will you make?
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Romance, Fiction
https://g.co/kgs/Nd446R


IMG_20170901_173117_0496. THE HANDMAID’S TALE BY MARGARET ATWOOD – 
 (Audiobook read by Claire Danes)This novel was originally published in 1985 but touches the reader as though it was written today. This well written novel of a dystopian society scarily coincides with what takes place with women’s rights and politics today. Claire Danes’s voice adds familiarity and emotion to the story that I don’t feel I would have gained if I had just read the book alone. Her reading performance is wonderful and adds a voice to Ofred (the main character). Loved this audiobook and highly recommend for readers on the go and for all men/women. he Handmaid’s Tale is such a predominate piece of literature that it is considered a classic and must-read for men and women, young and old. I highly recommend this novel, for it surely will leave you stunned and breathless.
Category: Fiction, Women’s Interest
https://g.co/kgs/taeHpm

IMG_20170909_213716_986

7. THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE BY WILLIAM JOYCE- a wonderful children’s book! Gorgeous illustrations & a terrific children’s book to inspire/teach the love and appreciation of books to youth. A must have in any children’s library or in any classroom. Category: Children’s Picture Book  https://g.co/kgs/1XrTcr

 

IMG_20170819_212438_3338. FINAL GIRLS BY RILEY SAGER – Thoroughly enjoyed this novel as it is filled with amazing plot twists loaded with suspense and psychological drama. Enjoyed every minute and could not put down. It plays on the human mind and how we block things out we don’t want to remember and how sometimes those closest to us are really the ones we should fear the most. Highly recommend. What really happened at Pine Cottage in the middle of the woods? Find out in this murder-mystery/psychological thriller. Heart racing, fast paced while leaving you on the edge of your seat. 
Category: Thriller, Murder/Mystery, Fiction 
https://g.co/kgs/QNX4oC

IMG_20180206_1235059949. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID – Excellent book about classic Hollywood during an era in which stars and studios were everything. The story follows one woman Evelyn and how she had her ups and downs and what she did to rise to fame and what she did for the love of her life. The question is who was the love of her life? Was it one of the seven husbands or was it someone else? Were all the marriages for love or publicity? What really happens once the cameras stop rolling and the paparazzi is gone? Excellent historical fiction read filled with a great plot twist, sprinkled with juicy brain candy. A pure delight and I can’t wait to read it again.  Category: Historical Fiction, Romance   
https://g.co/kgs/ZfwC43

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10. FAHRENHEIT 451 BY RAY BRADBURY – a literary classic originally published in 1953 and yet the content of the story is so relevant to today’s time (2017). Having read it once in high school and once this year, I consider it to be a must read for all readers young and old. This novel will stop anyone today in their tracks & make them observe their surroundings. Read this wonderful novel to discover all that is important and why books and knowledge are always the most powerful resource.
Category: Science Fiction, Fiction 
  https://g.co/kgs/dUuXv8

 

IMG_20180206_123532054_HDR***BONUS*** EXIT WEST BY MOHSIN HAMIDAn excellent story that I consider to be a realistic fiction. While the story is fictitious, it could very well be one survivors story. Mohsin writes about Nadia and Saeed who are living their lives in the Middle East and end up falling for each other in one of their colleges classes. Starting out as friends, their relationship grows into something more as their town is soon taken over by the military and is subjected to air raids. The dismantle of their home, loss of loved ones and loss of electricity forces them to seek refuges elsewhere. They end up in Greece, then London and finally California. Though Mohsin Hamid does not specify the exact settings, one understands through context clues that this story is highly based on the Syrian refugees who fled to Greece, then London and then came to America. It is a beautifully and poetically written novel that touches the human soul through human connection, love, the need for survival, violence, anger, confusion, hate, despair, friendship and above all hope. A literary must read. This novel is one of the top 20 Amazon Editors picks for best books of 2017 (https://www.amazon.com/b?node=17276804011a book of the month club pick for March 2017, (bookofthemonth.comand a NY Times Top 10 Best Books of 2017. https://g.co/kgs/e7tEYN

*All website links are dated as of February 6th, 2018*

 

 

 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

IMG_20170922_131010_336.jpgWhen you look into the mirror do you trust the person looking back at you? Most likely the answer is yes, but what if you had to look at yourself standing right in front of yourself, would you trust that other version of you? You know it is another of version of you, but does that mean they’re exactly like you and have the same morals? It’s a tough question and something that one will not know the answer to until they are in the moment like Jason Dessen, the main character of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Jason lives a wonderful life as a physics professor and has a beautiful wife Daniela and a great son Charlie. One night he goes out to meet his old friend Ryan for a drink and on his way home, Jason is kidnapped, drugged, held at gunpoint and ultimately wakes up strapped to a gurney surrounded by hazmat suits. However, Jason also leaves the bar and arrives safely home and makes love to his wife on the same night. 

At this point, I as the reader begin to wonder if I missed something? Did I skip a page by mistake? The answer is no and so the story unfolds as such. This science-fiction novel is sprinkled with quantum mechanics propelling Jason into a multitude of time travel adventures where he can witness first hand how his life would have been different had he made a different decision in different moments. Having witnessed his life is splendid times and horrific times he is now desperate more than every trying to figure out how he ended up where he is and if he can ever return to his real home and be with Daniela and Charlie. As his misadventures down the time travel cube (which he created in another life of himself) Jason gets closer to where he wants to be, but ultimately is being followed and targeted by other versions of himself who are attempting to get back to the same rendition of reality that he knows is the one he wants.

Once Jason achieves the goal of going through the door that leads him to his original life (where the book started), this novel of science-fiction, mystery and quantum mechanics turns into a game of chess, a battle against his own thoughts and a survival of the fitness leading into much suspense and murder. The reader ultimately begins to feel like Jason and initiates the questions of what is real? Who is real? Did it happen or are you dreaming? Can you trust yourself even if it isn’t the current version of you? How do our decisions change versions of ourselves? How far is one willing to go for love? What is one willing to do to oneself so save the ones you love? This fast paced, engaging and contemplating novel is an excellent read and leaves the reader in awe.

Remember, life is laid out in a matter of minutes and in each minute we have a choice. Depending on what you choose will alter all the other minutes in your life. What choice will you make?

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

IMG_20170910_184606_051Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a literary classic originally published in 1953 and yet the content of the story is so relevant to today’s time (2017). It dives into the concept of how the lack of education/knowledge and with books being forbidden that individuals will become less enhanced relying on “technology” for entertainment. Due to this dependency on “technology” people as a whole become a failed species and develop into nothing more than a massive brain warped/communication breakdown society.

The main character of this dystopian novel is firefighter Guy Montag whose job is to ignite fires with the purpose of demolishing books. In this community education is the enemy, reading is forbidden & sources of entertainment are electronics, tv walls and headsets that are filled with mindless chatter. Schools have closed, teachers hide, & books are the most dangerous items on the black market. Those caught with them will be thrown in jail or killed. During a raid Guy Montag witnesses a woman willing to die in her house surrounded by her books & curiosity gets the best of him. What is so great about these books? Why are people willing to die for them? With a swift hand he swipes one for himself before it’s engulfed in flames causing his life to be forever changed. With his brain dead wife hauling off in their car, Guy narrowly escapes the sting of a massive robotic dog. With all of society watching, he’s in danger and on the run from his co-workers and the government. Along the way he befriends intellectuals who have been in hiding preserving the last remaining books. From there he discovers a whole new aspect to life that he never thought existed.

This story is funny, suspenseful, thought provoking, and heart wrenching as we realize our society today is very much becoming the lifeless society in the book. Has our society today let technology take over our lives? Are we loosing our ability to think? Can we be like the main character by sticking to the truth and keeping the love of knowledge and books alive? Having read it once in high school and once this year, I consider it to be a must read for all readers young and old. This novel will stop anyone today in their tracks & make them observe their surroundings. Read this wonderful novel to discover all that is important and why books and knowledge are always the most powerful resource