Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

Evil Archaeology by Heather Lynn

Evil Archaeology: Demons, Possessions, and Sinister Relics  - Heather Lynn Rigaud

TITLE:  Evil Archaeology: Demons, Possessions, and Sinister Relics

 

AUTHOR:  Heather Lynn

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2019

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9781938875199

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DESCRIPTION:

"Demons, jinn, possession, sinister artifacts, and gruesome archaeological discoveries haunt the pages of the new book by Dr. Heather Lynn. Evil Archaeology investigates the archaeological record for artifacts and evidence of evil entities, revealing how demons from the ancient world may be dwelling among us. It also looks at the history and lore behind real relics, believed to be haunted, and includes historical accounts of demonic possession, as far back as the accounts of King Solomon invoking demons to help him build his famed Temple. Is there really a prehistoric fertility goddess figure that has been known to bring death to the families of anyone who holds it? Are there real vampire graveyards? Can the archaeological record prove the existence of demons and malevolent entities? Some tantalizing questions Evil Archaeology addresses include: •What is the origin of demons? •What role did Sumerian demons play in the development of civilization? •Are curses real? Can material objects contain evil? What about places? •What can we do to protect ourselves, according to historical records? •Was Jesus an exorcist? If this sounds all too disturbing, try not to worry. Evil Archaeology also includes ways to protect yourself and loved ones against malevolent forces, as well as practical advice from experienced exorcists and demonologists."

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REVIEW:

 

For a book titled "Evil Archaeology", it contains minimal information about archaeology or archaeological find, but does include a hodge-podge of stories about demons, pagan-deities, demonic possessions, and relics.  Some of the stories were interesting, like the Mesopotamian Toilet Demon and hypotheses about the reasons for trepannation and the creation of "gods/demons" by humans to deal with stressful situations like civilization.  But after a while the run-on collection of summaries about ancient/pagan deities, demonic possession anecdotes, summaries of gruesome archaeological find, fictional scenes and references to films and the like just got tedious.  The organization of the book was somewhat erratic and the author wasn't clear about her overarching hypothesis (if she had one).  At the end I couldn't determine if she was trying to find evidence that demons and gods were created by humans or if they actually exist or if she was just listing a bunch of things she found interesting.  I'm so happy I didn't impulse buy this at the bookshop and borrowed a library copy instead. This was a particularly disappointing read.

SPOILER ALERT!

Reading progress update: I've read 55 out of 288 pages.

Evil Archaeology: Demons, Possessions, and Sinister Relics  - Heather Lynn Rigaud

"Many passages in the Babylonian Talmud warn against "Shed Bet ha-Kis,", the "toilet demon".  



The Mesopotamians had a toilet demon.  Who knew?!!

SPOILER ALERT!

Virusphere by Frank Ryan

Virusphere: From common colds to Ebola epidemics – why we need the viruses that plague us  - Frank   Ryan

TITLE:  Virusphere: From common colds to Ebola epidemics – why we need the viruses that plague us

 

AUTHOR: Frank Ryan

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2020

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780008296704

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DESCRIPTION: 

"A fascinating and long overdue examination of viruses – from what they are and what they do, to the vital role they have played in human history.

What are viruses? Do they rely on genes, like all other forms of life? Do they follow the same patterns of evolution as plants and animals?
Frank Ryan answers these questions and many more in a sweeping tour of illnesses caused by viruses. For example, the common cold, measles, chicken pox, herpes and mumps, rubella, as well as less familiar examples, such as rabies, ‘breakbone’ fever, haemorrhagic fevers like Ebola, and virus-induced cancers. Along the way, readers will learn about the behaviours and ultimate goals of viruses, gaining a deeper understanding of their importance in relation to the origins and the evolution of life, as well as they ways viruses have changed us at the most intimate level, to help make us quintessentially human."

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REVIEW:

 

Rating:  Not quite 4 stars but more than 3.5 stars

Virusphere is an introductory text to viruses - the diseases they cause and how they cause these diseases, their evolution, how they "live", how they influence the evolution of other species by messing around with other genomes, and how viruses form part of the Earth's ecosystem.  This book starts off by providing a broad survey of a variety of the more common viral diseases ( e.g. measles, flu, cancer viruses etc), as well as the ones generally covered in other disease books such as insect-borne viruses, small pox and HIV/AIDS.  I found the second half of the book more interesting as it covers giant viruses (mimiviruses), viral abundance everywhere including Antarctica, how viruses prey on bacteria, virus-wasp symbiosis, and how viruses alter the genomes of other species and influence that species evolution (e.g. retroviral genes in mammal genomes make it possible for placentas to develop properly - no virus, no mammals!).  The chapter on the various hypotheses of viral evolution was also particularly interesting.  

This is an interesting, informative and short overview of nearly everything virus, written in an engaging and intelligible manner.  

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Hacking the Code of Life: How gene editing will rewrite our futures by Nessa Carey

Hacking the Code of Life: How gene editing will rewrite our futures - Nessa Carey

TITLE: Hacking the Code of Life: How Gene Editing Will Rewrite Our Futures

 

AUTHOR: Nessa Carey

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2019

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9781785784972

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DESCRIPTION:

"Just 45 years ago, the age of gene modification was born. Researchers could create glow-in-the-dark mice, farmyard animals producing drugs in their milk, and vitamin-enhanced rice that could prevent half a million people going blind every year.

But now GM is rapidly being supplanted by a new system called CRISPR or ‘gene editing’. Using this approach, scientists can manipulate the genes of almost any organism with a degree of precision, ease and speed that we could only dream of ten years ago.

But is it ethical to change the genetic material of organisms in a way that might be passed on to future generations? If a person is suffering from a lethal genetic disease, is it even more unethical to deny them this option? Who controls the application of this technology, when it makes ‘biohacking’ – perhaps of one’s own genome – a real possibility?

Nessa Carey’s book is a thrilling and timely snapshot of a technology that will radically alter our futures.
"

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REVIEW:

 

Nessa Carey has written an introductory, some-what opinionated, easy-to-understand, and rather short book about gene editing.  She covers the basics of the technique, the history, the advantages and occasionally the disadvantages, in terms of medical uses, with several examples.  The book is interesting and informative, but I really wished for more technical details.

The Last Human by Zack Jordan

The Last Human - Zack Jordan

TITLE:  The Last Human

 

AUTHOR:  Zack Jordan

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DESCRIPTION:

"Sarya is the civilized galaxy's worst nightmare: a Human.

Most days, Sarya doesn't feel like the most terrifying creature in the galaxy.

Most days, she's got other things on her mind. Like hiding her identity among the hundreds of alien species roaming the corridors of Watertower Station. Or making sure her adoptive mother doesn't casually eviscerate one of their neighbors. Again.

And most days, she can almost accept that she'll never know the truth--that she'll never know why humanity was deemed too dangerous to exist. Or whether she really is--impossibly--the lone survivor of a species destroyed a millennium ago.

That is, until an encounter with a bounty hunter and a miles-long kinetic projectile leaves her life and her perspective shattered.

Thrown into the universe at the helm of a stolen ship--with the dubious assistance of a rebellious spacesuit, an android death enthusiast on his sixtieth lifetime, and a ball of fluff with an IQ in the thousands--Sarya begins to uncover an impossible truth.

What if humanity's death and her own existence are simply two moves in a demented cosmic game, one played out by vast alien intellects? Stranger still, what if these mad gods are offering Sarya a seat at their table--and a second chance for humanity?

The Last Human is a sneakily brilliant, gleefully oddball space-opera debut--a masterful play on perspective, intelligence, and free will, wrapped in a rollicking journey through a strange and crowded galaxy.
"

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REVIEW:

This novel started of great but then went a bit sideways for the last half or so. The world building is original (to me anyway), the concept fascinating, the characters interesting and the writing is lovely. However, somewhere in the last half things got messy, the plot got lost, character interactions weren't particularly believable, no character development, and the addition of a lot of philosophical babbling. In short, it didn't really work for me.

 

German: Biography of a Language by Ruth H. Sanders

German: Biography of a Language - Ruth H. Sanders

TITLE: German: Biography of a Language

 

AUTHOR:  Ruth H. Sanders

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DESCRIPTION:

"Thousands of years ago, seafront clans in Denmark began speaking the earliest form of Germanic language--the first of six "signal events" that Ruth Sanders highlights in this marvelous history of the German language.

Blending linguistic, anthropological, and historical research, Sanders presents a brilliant biography of the language as it evolved across the millennia. She sheds light on the influence of such events as the bloody three-day Battle of Kalkriese, which permanently halted the incursion of both the Romans and the Latin language into northern Europe, and the publication of Martin Luther's German Bible translation, a "People's" Bible which in effect forged from a dozen spoken dialects a single German language. The narrative ranges through the turbulent Middle Ages, the spread of the printing press, the formation of the nineteenth-century German Empire which united the German-speaking territories north of the Alps, and Germany's twentieth-century military and cultural horrors. The book also covers topics such as the Gothic language (now extinct), the vast expansion of Germanic tribes during the Roman era, the role of the Vikings in spreading the Norse language, the branching off of Yiddish, the lasting impact of the Thirty Years War on the German psyche, the revolution of 1848, and much more.

Ranging from prehistoric times to modern, post-war Germany, this engaging volume offers a fascinating account of the evolution of a major European language as well as a unique look at the history of the German people. It will appeal to everyone interested in German language, culture, or history.
"

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REVIEW:

 

Interesting and informative, but too repetitive.

The Other People by C.J. Tudor

The Other People - C.J. Tudor

TITLE:  The Other People

 

AUTHOR:  C.J. Tudor

 

NARRATORS:  Richard Armitage & Ellie Kendrick

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DESCRIPTION:

"Q: Why are you called the Other People?
A: We are people just like you. People to whom terrible things have happened. We’ve found solace not in forgiveness or forgetting. But in helping each other find justice.


Driving home one night, Gabe is stuck behind a rusty old car. He sees a little girl’s face appear in its rear window. She mouths one word: Daddy. It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy. He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights traveling up and down the highway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe she’s dead.

When the car that he saw escape with his little girl is found abandoned with a body inside, Gabe must confront not just the day Izzy disappeared but the painful events from his past now dredged to the surface.

Q: What sort of justice?
A: That depends on the individual. But our ethos is a punishment that fits the crime.


Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the road. Not searching. Running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them—because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter.

She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up to her and Alice.

Q: Can I request to have someone killed?
A: If your Request is acceptable, and unless there are exceptional circumstances, we fulfill all Requests.
"

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REVIEW:

 

A nice, well written and well read (by Richard Armitage and Ellie Kendrick) mystery/thriller about revenge. There were a few supernatural elements which didn't work well, don't fit and seem rather pointless. But still an enjoyable listen (i.e. I didn't fall asleep for this one and looked forward to the rest of the story).

 

 

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing About Jellyfish - Ali Benjamin

TITLE:  The Thing About Jellyfish

 

AUTHOR:  Ali Benjamin

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DESCRIPTION:

"After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting--things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door."

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REVIEW:

 

A well-written but sad book about loss and growing up, with a plethora of interesting facts about jellyfish.

 

 

 

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Song For A Whale - Lynne  Kelly

TITLE:  Song for a Whale

 

AUTHOR:  Lynne Kelly

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DESCRIPTION:

"The story of a deaf girl's connection to a whale whose song can't be heard by his species, and the journey she takes to help him.

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she's the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she's not very smart. If you've ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to "sing" to him! But he's three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?
"

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REVIEW:

 

A beautifully written book about a determined, deaf, 12-year old, her relationship with deaf and hearing friends/relatives/teachers etc and her "relationship" with a whale that doesn't sing right. I love the grandma in this story!
 
 
 
SPOILER ALERT!

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

The Line Tender - Kate Allen

TITLE:  The Line Tender

 

AUTHOR:  Kate Allen

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DESCRIPTION:

"The Line Tender is the story of Lucy, the daughter of a marine biologist and a rescue diver, and the summer that changes her life. If she ever wants to lift the cloud of grief over her family and community, she must complete the research her late mother began. She must follow the sharks.

Wherever the sharks led, Lucy Everhart’s marine-biologist mother was sure to follow. In fact, she was on a boat far off the coast of Massachusetts, preparing to swim with a Great White, when she died suddenly. Lucy was eight. Since then Lucy and her father have done OK—thanks in large part to her best friend, Fred, and a few close friends and neighbors. But June of her twelfth summer brings more than the end of school and a heat wave to sleepy Rockport. On one steamy day, the tide brings a Great White—and then another tragedy, cutting short a friendship everyone insists was “meaningful” but no one can tell Lucy what it all meant. To survive the fresh wave of grief, Lucy must grab the line that connects her depressed father, a stubborn fisherman, and a curious old widower to her mother’s unfinished research. If Lucy can find a way to help this unlikely quartet follow the sharks her mother loved, she’ll finally be able to look beyond what she’s lost and toward what’s left to be discovered.
"

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REVIEW:

 

This book is targeted at 10-13 year olds, but I think adults can enjoy it too.  The writing is lovely and the story poignant, sad and hopeful.  The shark sketches throughout the book were beautiful too.  This is a kid's book so I can't complain too much about all the adults accommodating every impulsive whim of the child narrator. ;)  Or maybe the adults in this book are just really kind.  I like that the book was set in the 1990s - no-one was glued to a cell phone or TV, the kids were mostly "free range" and the atmosphere was relaxed.  There are some really fascinating facts about sharks and shark tracking that highlight the need for shark conservation without being heavy handed and preachy about it.  Ultimately the book is about loss and coping with that loss.

 

 

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

The Accidental Time Machine - Joe Haldeman

TITLE:  The Accidental Time Machine

 

AUTHOR:  Joe Haldeman

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DESCRIPTION:

"Joe Haldeman "has quietly become one of the most important science fiction writers of our time" (Rocky Mountain News). Now he delivers a provocative novel of a man who stumbles upon the discovery of a lifetime-or many lifetimes.

Grad-school dropout Matt Fuller is toiling as a lowly research assistant at MIT when, while measuring subtle quantum forces that relate to time changes in gravity and electromagnetic force, his calibrator turns into a time machine. With a dead-end job and a girlfriend who has left him for another man, Matt has nothing to lose taking a time machine trip himself-or so he thinks.
"

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REVIEW:

An entertaining and light romp through future time via a wonky (it only goes forward and sideways) and accidentally discovered time machine.  The main character is a bit flat and I can't say the futures provided by Haldeman were terribly exciting.  The novel was entertaining but not great.  I found the beginning more interesting than the end.

The Clock and the Camshaft by John W. Farrell

The Clock and the Camshaft: And Other Medieval Inventions We Still Can't Live Without  -  John W. Farrell

TITLE:  The Clock and the Camshaft: And Other Medieval Inventions We Still Can't Live Without

 

AUTHOR:  John W. Farrell

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2019

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9781633885721

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DESCRIPTION:

"This history of medieval inventions, focusing on the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries, vividly portrays a thriving era of human ingenuity—and the results are still being felt to this day. From the mechanical clock to the first eyeglasses, both of which revolutionized society, many of the commonplace devices we now take for granted had their origin in the Middle Ages. Divided into ten thematic chapters, the accessible text allows the reader to sample areas of interest or read the book from beginning to end for a complete historical overview.

A chapter on the paper revolution shows that innovations in mill power enabled the mass production of cheap paper, which was instrumental in the later success of the printing press as a means of disseminating affordable books to more people. Another chapter examines the importance of Islamic civilization in preserving ancient Greek texts and the role of translation teams in Sicily and Spain in making those texts available in Latin for a European readership. A chapter on instruments of discovery describes the impact of the astrolabe, which was imported from Islamic lands, and the compass, originally invented in China; these tools plus innovations in shipbuilding spurred on the expansion of European trade and the later age of discovery at the time of Columbus.

Complete with original drawings to illustrate how these early inventions worked, this guided tour through a distant era reveals how medieval farmers, craftsmen, women artisans, and clerical scholars laid the foundations of the modern world.
"

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REVIEW:

 

Short but interesting.

Gods and Robots by Adrienne Mayor

Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Tec - Adrienne Mayor

TITLE:  Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology

 

AUTHOR:  Adrienne Mayor

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2020

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780691202266

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DESCRIPTION:

"The fascinating untold story of how the ancients imagined robots and other forms of artificial life--and even invented real automated machines

The first robot to walk the earth was a bronze giant called Talos. This wondrous machine was created not by MIT Robotics Lab, but by Hephaestus, the Greek god of invention. More than 2,500 years ago, Greek mythology was exploring ideas about creating artificial life--and grappling with still-unresolved ethical concerns about biotechne, life through craft. In this compelling, richly illustrated book, Adrienne Mayor tells the fascinating story of how ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese myths envisioned artificial life, automata, self-moving devices, and human enhancements--and how these visions relate to and reflect the ancient invention of real animated machines. Revealing how science has always been driven by imagination, and how some of today's most advanced tech innovations were foreshadowed in ancient myth, Gods and Robots is a gripping new story of mythology for the age of AI.
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REVIEW:

 

This is an interesting and informative overview of what ancient myths (mostly Greek and Roman, but a few others) have to say about machines, robots, artificial intelligence (i.e. creatures made not born) and their implied philosophical questions.  The book also provides a chapter that covers the mechanics and technology during antiquity.  Mayor provides an eye-opening and transformative manner of looking at the ancient myths. I enjoyed this scholarly book a great deal.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This Is How You Lose the Time War - Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

TITLE:  This Is How You Lose the Time War

 

AUTHORS:  Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

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DESCRIPTION:

"Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There's still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.
"

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REVIEW:

This is a beautifully written semi-epistolary novella, with an interesting concept, novel world building and quirky characters. I loved how the characters developed together. This novella reminded me a bit of Patricia McKillip's The Riddle Master of Hed trilogy, while at the same time being completely different. Maybe it was the writing style?

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught If Fortunate - Becky Chambers

TITLE: To Be Taught, If Fortunate

 

AUTHOR: Becky Chambers

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DESCRIPTION:

"At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.

Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.
"

 

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REVIEW:

 

Interesting concept, boring execution.  The idea of temporarily altering your genetics to fit into an off-planet environment was interesting, but the writing was just tedious.  There were too many info dumps about biological concepts.  Too much "telling" and not enough "showing".  The main narrator has absolutely no personality, and the other characters are even "flatter".  For a space exploration novella this one was pretty bland.  Nothing "exciting" happened, even though the potential was there.  No personal development, no inter-personal development or crew dynamics either.  Everyone was just so... agreeable... and ... nice.    Even the potentially exciting parts came across as bland.  I got excited there for one moment with the giant slug-things... but NOTHING HAPPENED!  The ending was an interesting twist, but I found it highly unsatisfying and not at all plausible.  The one thing going for this novella is that it is short!

SPOILER ALERT!

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box - Josh Malerman

TITLE:  Bird Box

AUTHOR:  Josh Malerman

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DESCRIPTION:

"Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it's time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children's trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.
"

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REVIEW:



****************************SPOILERS!!!!****************************



*************************LOTS OF SPOILERS*****************************



I watched the movie and read the book.  I don't get what the fuss was about.  As a horror novel, it might have gory bits, but it just didn't work for me.  I was neither scared, left in suspense or terrified.   Too slow, no details about the "creatures" (their motivations or what they were, which is completely unsatisfying and incredibly annoying), limited atmosphere, limited drama (psychological or otherwise) and I simply didn't give a damn about any of the characters (they were bland).  Also, Malerman needs to do some research on child birth, especially if he is going to write about it.  And calling the kids "Boy", "Girl" instead of their names? What if it had been two girls or two boys?  "Boy1", "Boy2"?  "Firstborn", "Secondborn"?  I'm also failing to see 4 year old kids do any of the stuff the kids do in this novel.  Unless my husband's 4-year old nephew is on the bottom end of the physical and mental scale?  The novel basically comes down to "a bunch of people stuck in a house" dynamics, with the usual associated messiness (no need for nebulous monsters if people want to kill each other or themselves - they do this perfectly well on their own).  The "creatures" come across as simply irrelevant - an excuse for people to lock themselves up.   

Interesting concept, flat execution.

PS:  I did not appreciate reading about the poor dog!!

Currently reading

The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution by Henry Gee
Progress: 98/217pages