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review 2020-04-13 16:37
Anything is improved by adding a dinosaur, or more!
Mountain Climbing with Dinosaurs - Doug Goodman

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is my first book by Goodman, and it was a ride on the wild side.  I suspect it won’t be the last of his books I read, either.

OK, from the title you probably guessed that the book is about mountain climbing. Check! It also has dinosaurs. Check! I chose the book because I thought that, in the current situation (Coronavirus, I’m talking about you again), I needed something that would grab my attention and  keep it away from what has become a reality that feels like a badly written dystopian novel. And yes, it did that, for sure, but it also did much more than that. I know very little about mountain climbing, and I’ve only attempted to climb a climbing wall once in my life (climbing wasn’t a problem, but I didn’t like the ropes and wasn’t good at handling them, in case you wonder), but I’m always intrigued by mountaineering adventures, and well, dinosaurs. I couldn’t resist the combination. But the back story of the climb was fascinating in its own right. The description only refers to it in passing, but the two twins who are the main protagonists of the story (Travis and Brady), are doing it for a very good reason. They have been climbers since they were children, recently survived a school shooting, and are doing the climb in remembrance of their dead schoolmates. Thirteen of their friends died in the shooting, and they’ve decided to climb thirteen mountains and leave a memorial on top of each one of the mountains, one of each of their friends. The book manages to touch on survivor’s guilt, and also on the feelings of those indirectly involved in the shootings, relatives of victims and perpetrators, while at the same time keeping the focus on the climbing and the dinosaurs (and these are not the friendly kind, believe me). It keeps a good balance between pure adventures and more serious topics, and although at times the most technical aspects of the mountain climbing got lost to me, that didn’t impede my enjoyment of the story. I don’t want to go into the plot too much, because although some of it you can probably imagine, there are subtler aspects that are best left for readers to discover.

I have talked about some of the themes of the book. The dinosaurs, that I guess will be one of the main attractions of the book, are not the best-known and most familiar to the general public, and the creatures, that in this story have been brought back to life by Big Pharma, seem well –researched (although I’m no authority on dinosaurs). Not being an expert in mountain climbing, as I said, I cannot judge how accurate the techniques and equipment mentioned are, but they rang true to me, and I again think the research has paid off. The book also deals in themes that I was more familiar with, like the psychological aftermath of a school shooting, and it does so with a fine touch and sensitivity. Although the writing style is completely different, it reminded me of Hunter Shea’s Creature. That also made me think that although the dinosaurs are “real” within the book, they could also be read as symbolising what the twins are going through, and so could some of the other strange events that happen within the novel (and I’ll keep my peace about that as well).

This is not a book with many characters, and most of the action is narrated in the first person by one of the twin climbers, Travis, so we get a very direct perspective on what is going on, and an insight into how he sees events, and also how he remembers the things that happened, and his understanding of his brothers’ actions and feelings. We also get some short inserts where the cameraman interviews relatives and friends of the twins, to help him create the documentary of the climb. These characters are not part of the action, but those fragments offer us a different and larger perspective into the twins, and also into their background and their previous stories. The two twins are the main characters, although the filmmaker and the photographer also play a small part in the main action. But there are other characters that also pertain in the story, because their memory is very much alive, and those are some of the other victims of the shooting, and though we don’t get to know them all individually, we feel them there every step of the climb. The dinosaurs are also characters, and we get enough information about them to get a good sense of their different outlooks and characteristics. I wouldn’t want any of them as pets, believe me!

The writing style is direct, and easy to follow (apart from the use of specific mountain climbing terminology at times), and there is enough description of the mountain, the climbing techniques, and the dinosaurs to allow readers to get a clear picture in their minds (yes, it would make a great movie, if the special effects were done well). There are some instances of telling rather than showing, necessary to provide the information general readers would need to understand the action and the behaviour of the dinosaurs, but they do not interfere with the flow of the story. As I said, most of the novel is written in the first-person, and I know some readers don’t like it, but I thought it suited it well. Some scenes are quite violent and graphic, so I wouldn’t recommend it to squeamish readers. As I always say, I’d recommend future readers to check a sample of the novel and see if they think the style suits their taste.

The ending is suitable to the genre of the book —I don’t think anybody would expect a conventional happy ending—, but I thought it worked well, considering the story and the events. And yes, the epilogue was very fitting. A quick word of warning. The story only occupies 90% of the e-book, and it’s followed by a teaser from another book, although I confess I wouldn’t mind reading Demon Flyer at all.

A solid read, with its scary moments (it did remind me of Jaws at times), and a deeper and more meaningful story than most readers would expect from the title. It demonstrates that any book can be improved by the introduction of a dinosaur, or a few.  Recommended to lovers of mountain climbing, dinosaurs, and to readers looking for creature horror with a bit of backstory and depth.

I’d suggest to the writer and publishers the inclusion of a list of mountain climbing terminology, with links, and also a list of the dinosaurs and their characteristics, as that would avoid distractions and enrich the reading experience.


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review 2018-01-03 05:42
Cute? animal sidekicks, magic & mountaineering
Even the Darkest Stars - Heather Fawcett

Loved this. From the first page, it's clearly something special. Flawless, effortless worldbuilding with unique-yet-relatable characters in high-stakes adventures with a serious twist. In Fantasy!Historic Tibet, the second daughter of a village chief in the mountain is flunking magic lessons and totally failing to hatch dragon eggs. Good thing her best friend is a genius and can cover for her. Big sister also perfect, so when the empire's most accomplished explorer (who just happens to ALSO be a hot teen) shows up in town, of course it's sis that gets invited on his next, most important-yet mission. Then sis runs off with the explorer's chronicler and things get interesting. Our magicless flunkout is about to prove her serious climbing and mountaineering skills as she saves big sis AND the empire (because evil witches are out to get them, btw) and steals the lead explorer title for herself. Until demons start hounding the camp and the party members' secrets start undermining the mission. Exciting story, fresh setting, relatable, compelling and endlessly cool characters with appealing but understated romance and serious twists. Good for mid teens and up; no language, minimal sex references, PG for the under 14s, but it's pretty clean, especially for YA these days. Some great lines and timely ideas and themes explored. Cinematic; could see this being a great film/TV series too. Can't wait for the sequel!

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review 2015-12-13 17:03
really really disappointing
The Edge - Roland Smith

It’s been so long since I read Peak but I remember it fondly. Unfortunately, this sequel did NOT live up to my memory of Peak. I love a fast-paced adventure but this one didn’t do much for me. It was quick and easy to read but that's pretty much it.



For starters, I think this book needed more development. Everything happened too fast and the tension was never the right amount. As a result, I wasn’t as invested in what was happening. I also found the entire situation unbelievable. A lot of things didn’t add up and there were way too many loopholes. For example, the climber from Australia is some guy who cannot even climb but the entire event is supposed to be full of professional young adult climbers. Could they not find a single kid who knew how to climb in Australia? I am just like woah.



Peak, for the most part was an okay kid, but he said some obnoxious things that made me wonder whether or not he lived under a rock (yes I am trying to be punny.) I guess when you’re a child prodigy, anything is a possible…



Maybe pass this one if you, like me, haven’t read Peak in years. Or if you haven’t read either, Peak might be something cool to try! Mountain climbing for the win!

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text 2014-07-09 13:58
Bring on the end of the world!
Ashfall - Mike Mullin

Ok, after a weekend of the Walking Dead, I'm diving in with a little more end of the world wackiness. This has been on my TBR list for a long, long time, but I'm diving in. Whoot!

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review 2014-01-02 04:41
Best of 2013 and 1913, Part One: 2013 Fiction
I Know Very Well How I Got My Name - Elliott DeLine
Love Minus Eighty - Will McIntosh
Nevada - Imogen Binnie
News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories - Jennifer Haigh
Artificial Gods: Book Three of the Night's Dream Series - Thomm Quackenbush
Murphy's Law - Yolanda Wallace
Doctor Sleep - Stephen King
Hit Me (Keller) by Block, Lawrence (1st (first) Edition) [Hardcover(2013)] - Lawrence Block
The Arrivals - Melissa Marr

New features this year:

-a return to judging which are the “best” (why not? I’m no more unqualified than anyone else.)

-bonus features of Best of 1813 and Best of 2113.

-the author’s original title for their book, if I was able to discover it.

-I will disclose when my opinions are influenced by nepotism and intrigue, which is more than a real reviewer will do.

-as you can see, I'm using BookLikes now, and this will be a series of posts instead of one really long Facebook note.


Best of 2013: FICTION


Clearly I did not read very many novels for grown-ups that were published in 2013, but I did stumble across a few things that were extremely good.


The Top Two plus my handsome cat.


Top Five:


I Know Very Well How I Got My Name by Elliott DeLine

I could say that this was the best novel of 2013, but that would be a charming understatement. How about one of the best novels of any year? It’s about a kid growing up transgender, although there are many are other elements to the story. I wrote a full review here.


Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh (Author’s original title, and title of original short story in Asimov’s: “Bridesicle.”)

In a grim future, the dead can be cryogenically frozen and brought back to life—for a price, leading to an industry where dead women are revived for quick “dates” where they must convince their rich suitors to choose them for resurrection. This book made me think about questions like what is love and what is life and why we die and why we fear it, without ever swerving away from being a cracking good science fiction story. Also you don’t usually encounter well-written lesbian characters in science fiction by men, but here you do. And it had the coolest cover! There is a parchment wrapper that overlays the cover, acting sort of like a scrim on a stage—it's hard to explain, just look at these pictures.


 That's with the paper overlay on.


That's with the overlay off.

That is the overlay itself. The whole thing is a book design triumph!


Nevada by Imogen Binnie

A young woman who’s transgender is living in NYC in the recent past and working at the the Strand, but then her life becomes completely unglued and she goes on a journey. Loved it. I wrote a full review here.


News From Heaven: The Bakerton Stories by Jennifer Haigh

Haigh’s awesome novel Baker Towers was set in a poor mining town, and she returns to the same setting and some of the same characters with these stories. I’ve mostly thrown in the towel on contemporary literary fiction, but Haigh is a subtle and wonderful writer. The story that stuck in my head the most was about a Bakerton girl who goes to work in New York City as a maid to a wealthy Jewish family. I liked having read Baker Towers first, but I think these would stand alone.


Artificial Gods by Thomm Quackenbush

Full disclosure: I know this writer slightly. A college student in downstate New York encounters some strange phenomena that she can’t explain—could there be aliens among us? Full review here.


What Else?


Dr. Sleep by Stephen King

It’s a sequel to The Shining, all about Danny when he is all grown-up and an alcoholic himself! The first couple chapters were kind of gross and then after that it was strangely non-scary with somewhat unthreatening villains/monsters, which suited me fine. It’s basically an unrelated story with some Shining-connected material thrown over it, also okay by me. My favorite part by far was seeing the characters who were in AA changing their lives aided by the fellowship of other alcoholics. There was an incident that Danny was haunted by and felt guilty about, and I kept thinking that he was overreacting and every addict has a story like that or far worse. Then this issue was beautifully addressed in the very end. Look, this novel is not as good as The Shining, and how could it be, but I quite enjoyed reading it.


Murphy’s Law by Yolanda Wallace

I love reading about mountain climbing, and this lesbian romance is set on a mountain climbing expedition in the Himalayas, so it was perfect for me. I expected headstrong climbers, terrible weather, low oxygen, life-and-death situations, and lots of smoldering glances. I was not disappointed!


Hit Me by Lawrence Block

I’m a big fan of the Keller series, about a stamp-collecting hired killer, and this is the latest installment. They don’t call Block a Grand Master of Mystery for nothing!


The Arrivals by Melissa Marr

People from all time periods who may have died are mysteriously transported to a world full of magical hazards. Right after I read this book, I read an essay by Robert Silverberg in Asimov’s that was about translating Westerns into science fiction by just changing the names (like “horse” into “greeznak”) and whether true conceptual originality is even possible. Those concerns are all extremely relevant to this novel.


Next Up: 2013 YA


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