Posts in category 'books'

  • Review: Descent

    Review of Descent by Tim Johnston (9781616204303)

    A book billed as a thriller that explores a family as they come to grips with the disappearance of a child, the book defied my expectations, for good reasons and bad.

    Cover for Descent by Tim Johnston

    The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, who are taking a family vacation before their daughter leaves for college. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic.

    Written with a precision that captures every emotion, every moment of fear, as each member of the family searches for answers, Descent races like an avalanche toward its heart-pounding conclusion. 

    There’s no book in recent memory that I found as challenging to review as I’m finding this one. I think that’s because Descent tries to be two things at once: both a thriller, telling the story of the disappearance of Caitlyn, a high school senior and track star who is abducted while going for a run during a family vacation to the Colorado Rockies, and a deep character study of the family members–her father Grant, her mother Angela, and her brother Sean–and their lives, together and apart, as they grapple with the nightmare of a daughter and a sister who disappears without a trace. Each of these stories would, individually, be a gripping read. Unfortunately, I feel Mr. Johnston tried to do too much, and as a result, taken as a whole, nothing works as well as it could.

    Of course, I still enjoyed the book very much, and was up way too late during the big climax. But, the more I thought about the book and talked about it to my wife, the more I couldn’t overlook the flaws in this debut novel.

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  • Review: Circe

    Review of Circe by Madeline Miller (9780316556347)★★★★

    I noticed I haven’t written a long-form post in quite a while so I figured I’d get back into it with a review of Circe.

    Cover for Circe by Madeline Miller

    In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child--neither powerful like her father nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power: the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

    Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts, and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

    But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from or with the mortals she has come to love.

    I have to admit it’s been a while since I read Circe, so this review is probably gonna be a) a bit short, and b) based on fuzzy recollections. But, I’ll do my best with what I can recall.

    If you’ve not heard of the book, Circe is a mythological retelling, and I have to admit, I really wish I was more familiar with my Greek mythology because, even based on the limited knowledge I do have, Madeline Miller’s work in adapting this tale is really pretty astonishing. Through beautiful prose and incredible characterization she manages to find the humanity in this ancient and epic story.

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