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review 2017-04-12 21:20
Below the Root (Green Sky #1)
Below the Root - Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Rereading a beloved childhood favorite as an adult is always risky.


I read Below the Root by Zilpha Keatley Snyder and its sequels over and over and over again as a voracious young SF lover in the early 80’s (and surprisingly was oblivious to the computer game based on the same world).  At the time, I was fascinated by the ability of Raamo to read minds, or at least emotions, and swept along by the idea of gliding through the treetops.  I was totally immersed in the immediate events and not too concerned by the larger moralizing of the story.  


Re-reading as an adult, I keep being struck by the parallels to The Giver.

  • The attempt to create a utopia free of violence and pain
  • A small group of privileged elites who know the secret
  • That these elites commit violence to maintain the innocence of the masses
  • The protagonist being chosen to join the elite

Now these items are very common in utopia/dystopia stories, but the similarity is easy to find.  


When reading as a child, the many made up words used to create the foreign world of Green Sky, pense instead of telepathy, nid for home-place bower, Ol-zhaan for the priest class, just were accepted without thought. Reading as an adult, the way the wonderfully detailed world is described feels a bit dated and I wasn’t sure that the made-up words added value.  Reading as a child, I was also oblivious to certain other details that just jumped out at me this time around, such as the specifics of the special medicine taken the youth halls and what exactly was alluded to by people sharing “close communion.”


Reading today, the minimal character development is grating to my adult eyes.  It’s hard to decide if it is intentional because Ms. Snyder was writing for a younger audience or if the much shorter book length in 1975 just didn’t allow the space for the complex internal dialog that we have become accustomed to. But despite the flaws that my adult eyes see, I wish that Below the Root is better known and more widely read.

My memory is that I always preferred the middle book in the trilogy And All Between best.  I do intend to continue re-reading to see if that holds, since I was able to pick up all 3 volumes as free ebooks during a big “sale” last year.  

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review 2017-03-20 13:28
Below the Surface (The Witness Series Book 5) - Heather D'Agostino,Kellie Montgomery

“No matter how far you run, you can never outrun your past”.

When I read the synopsis, I figured I knew the angle the author would take. After reading the first paragraph, I was even more convinced that I was right in my assumptions. Boy oh boy! Was I wrong? This was nothing like what I expected.

I look terrible,” I mumbled as I scrutinized my reflection in the mirror. Who would want to hire me? I look like I just went a few rounds with a baseball bat. I sighed as I dropped my chin to my chest and let my shoulders sag. I was running low on funds, and if I didn’t get a regular job soon I was going to be back at the shelter. That thought alone propelled me into motion. Melissa had been a godsend, but life in hiding and running is not something that I ever want to go back to. The ladies at Thrive made me feel like I could do this. I can survive on my own, and I will make it. I just need to find a place that doesn’t ask a lot of questions.

Below the Surface, the 5th book in Witness series was intense, shocking, suspenseful and addictive, but the thing that set it apart from the other books was its darkness and edginess. It is a well-written story with fascinating characters and a captivating plot that made this a difficult book to put down.

Lena, having experienced unspeakable horrors had no trust when it came to men. Haunted by painful memories, but with the will to survive she sets out to reclaim her life. However, demons from her past had other plans and now her sister was in grave danger. To save her sister would mean returning to a fate worse than death. I admired her inner strength and selflessness. The fact that she was willing to go back to the world that broken and destroyed her mentally, emotionally and physically to save her sister spoke to who she was as a person.

The story moved between the past and present, making easy to relate to Lena’s traumatic experience. It took place at around the same time as book 4. However, reading book 4 before reading this installment is not a requirement. The story is easily read as a stand-alone. There were scenes that gave me an uncomfortable feeling; however, I was curious to see how the events would unfold. This is definitely not for the faint of heart. Not only that, it had me on edge throughout most of the story.

Despite me liking the story, I believe a few areas needed more development. I had a hard time accepting that Lena’s sister could so easily get over her experience after being in such a hell hole. Her actions were not typical of someone who experienced trauma making that aspect of the story somewhat unbelievable. Then there were the secret Jeff, the male protagonist was keeping. To be honest it was not what I expected and it left me feeling disappointed. I was hoping for something with a little zing. Honestly, I did not believe that his family being well off was that big of a deal and besides I did not see where it added any value to the story. Furthermore, he did not have a relationship with his family. I was hoping for a reconciliation, but the author did not explore that angle Nevertheless, I loved the role he played in the story. He is patient and protective, especially with Lena

I don’t want to say much about the plot because personally, I believe one should go into this story blindly. If you only knew how tempted I was to skip the pages to see how it played, but I am, glad I did not yield, as that would have ruined the experience for me. One thing I will say though is that I liked how the events played out.

I do not think there is anything else I can say to convince you to read this book. All I can say is this if you enjoy stories that are intense, suspenseful, edgy and semi-dark then this book is for you.

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review 2017-03-11 21:40
Hell Holes: What Lurks Below
Hell Holes: What Lurks Below - Donald G. Firesmith

Dr. Jack Oswald is a geologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.  Just before classes are ready to begin for the semester, Jack receives an urgent call from Kevin Kowalski who works for ExxonMobil drilling oil.  There have been a series of mysterious holes opening up around the drilling fields that are affecting operations.  The holes are deep and perfectly cylindrical and just plain strange.  Jack has been hired to investigate; he assembles his team consisting of his wife, Dr. Angela Menendez, a climatologist, two of his grad students Mark and Jill Starr, a wildlife biologist Bill Henderson and is cajoled into taking along AIleen O'Shannon, a photojournalist.  When the team arrives in Deadhorse, they immediately get to work exploring the holes.  However, upon closer examination of the holes, no explanation for the holes can be found.  Then, disaster strikes and all hell is literally unleashed.  Now, the research team turns instead to survival and perhaps sending the demons back to where they belong. 

This was a fast-paced and short read that managed to combine climate science and supernatural horror in an effective way.  The book is written from Jack's point of view as a memoir of a survivor the attacks.  The first part of the story is a bit of an info dump as Jack's explains what he does, describes the fieldwork and his team's hypotheses about the holes. As a scientist myself, I enjoyed reading about permafrost and pingos and liked that climate science is featured in a book.  The story quickly picks up as hell breaks out on Earth.  One character has a large surprise up their sleeve that may help the team out of the mess if they can accept their new reality.  The different demons were all very interesting and I wish Bill could have continued his post mortem of the Hellhound.  Since this is a memoir of events, there is not much characterization, but more focus on events.  The story ends on quite a cliffhanger and with a sneak peek of book two at the end, I will definitely want to read on. 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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review 2017-01-23 12:07
Expedition to Kangchenjunga...
Thin Air - Michelle Paver

I love stories about climbing expeditions so I try to read as many as I can. This one focuses more on the ghost story aspect versus a lot of climbing details which is still great but if you are looking for a more technical perspective then you probably want to read a true account instead of this.


With that said, I enjoyed this story immensely but when it's all said and done, it didn't 'wow' me like I was hoping for. It had all of the ingredients of a good ghost story but I just didn't get that eerie, creepy feeling that I felt like it should have evoked, which is why I only gave it 4 stars instead of 5.



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review 2016-12-22 05:03
Dead Below Zero - Sten Ostberg

Reading one of Sten Ostberg’s short stories is becoming a Xmas tradition for me. Last year it was “Blood Ran Cold” which introduced us to the main characters featured here.


Karl Vollan is a retired cop living in Tromso with his much younger wife Marte & 2 year old Nadina. After leaving his daughter with the in-laws one night, Karl is looking forward to a rare romantic evening. Yeah….better luck next time, Karl.


A 2 am phone call from Marte’s older sister Brynja puts an end to his plans. They’re soon racing through a brutal snowstorm to get to the home she shares with husband Kjell. When they arrive, they find Brynja alone, covered with blood & she’s got quite a story to tell. It’s only 112 pages so I’ll leave it there as far as the plot is concerned.


Whether or not you enjoy this story will depend on you ability to suspend all disbelief. What follows is a violent, harrowing tale that will keep you turning the pages just to see who is left standing. But the number of near misses, last minute reprieves & death defying recoveries were a few bridges too far for me, I’m afraid. One character in particular seems rudely oblivious to the fact they should be dead already & keeps popping up like a Whack-a-Mole.


Having said that, there were a couple of things that are done very well. One is the setting. Much of the story is set outside in a howling blizzard & descriptions of the characters battling wind, freezing body parts & snow blindness had me reaching for another sweater. The other is how people respond to each other in stressful situations. Polite facades gradually crumble as Karl, Marte & Brynja begin to bicker. Sides are taken & then shift as events careen out of control & it’s not long before the gloves come off & frayed nerves result in old secrets & lies being revealed.


So there you have it. Is it believable? Not really. But it has that same weird attraction of watching an impending train wreck. Just bring an extra sweater.








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