WOLF IN WHITE VAN by John Darnielle (Review)

Wolf in White Van

207 Pages

This is another one of those reads that’s been on my TBR for awhile, so while in NYC, I managed to pick it up at The Strand and read it almost entirely between train rides!

Here we go.

Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to explore. As the creator of “Trace Italian”-a text-based role-playing game that’s played through the mail-Sean guides subscribers through his intricately imagined terrain, turn by turn, as they search out sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America. But when Lance and Carrie, two teenaged seekers of the Trace, take their play outside the game, disaster strikes, and Sean is called on to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, toward the beginning and the climax: the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.

Review:

So, the concept behind this is very interesting, as almost none of the actual story takes place in the present, even though it’s being narrated from the present. Sean lives his life with his disfigurement, and a lot of the story is him going back and telling the story of what actually happened to him. In recovery of what happened, Sean creates a mail-in game that people can subscribe to and mail ins responses called Trace Italian (almost like an RPG). When a couple of kids take the game too seriously, he ends up in a lawsuit.

To start with the negatives, I would have to say my major complaint about this is that I wish there had been more details about the lawsuit and the details behind what actually happened to the kids. While you get little snippets and some small details about what actually went down, I do wish it had been a little more detailed, and would not have been mad if that resulted in an extra 100 pages.

Now, to the positives.

The writing is absolutely brilliant. I am absolutely in love with Sean as a character and are sad this is the only narrative we may ever see him in. His story about his disfigurement is heartbreaking, and all of the details of family life are heartbreaking as well as the encounters he gets in to. Most of the story, as stated before, is told with flashbacks, and it’s very cool to see how all of the puzzle pieces fall into place, and how the game of Trace Italian came to be.

There really isn’t a lot to say about this without giving too much away, but if you’re looking for a quick read with a super interesting character and story that really makes you look at things from a different perspective, then I would recommend this.

Sean is an incredible character, and this story had me flipping through pages, not ever really wanting to put it down. Wolf in White Van is definitely going to find long time residence on my shelf.

Final Rating

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Notes:

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this one. I would highly recommend you buy it here, or check it out from your local library.

 

Best,

Daniel

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WOOL by Hugh Howey (Review)

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528 Pages

Wool has been on my TBR list for awhile, as have a lot of the reads I’ve been picking up lately. It was mostly on my radar when I was more into post-apocolyptic/dystopian things, as I thought it was interesting – being advertised as an adult book (or new adult) in this genre.

In a future where the air you breath could kill you, and humans live in Silos buried underground, we follow several characters as they live their lives transfixed by the thought of the outside world. People who even speak of leaving or commit any punishment are sent out for the cleaning of the cameras that show the world of the outside – using wool pads – for sure to end in their death. When Juliette is put in the position of Sheriff, she soon starts to realize that not everything is as nice and peaceful as it may seem in the Silo. And, she soon realizes that not everyone is on the side of peace, either. How did they get there to begin with? Why is the world so toxic outside? But, asking those questions in the Silo, she knows, could very easily get you killed.

Basic Thoughts

I think the premise behind this book is very intriguing. While I do feel that a lot of post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels follow the same pattern, I felt this one could break the mold.

It’s a long book, too, which I thought would help it achieve this goal in the end. What is this Silo? What is this world in which they all have been living in? Why are these people there?

Pros:

  • Interesting idea
    • The whole idea that the air is toxic, forcing people to live inside of a Silo is honestly quiet interesting.
  • Relatable characters
    • I do feel like a lot of the character’s ambitions are highly relatable, and Howey manages to portray them well.

Cons

  • Very wordy
    • While the chapters where short, there would often be chapters with absolutely    no dialogue. It made me wonder if they were necessary at all.
  • Some things didn’t make sense
    • The Silo is made up of around 150 stories, all connected by stairs. They complain about these stairs a lot. They have advanced computer technology but couldn’t build an elevator?
  • Doesn’t manage to break the mold
    • While it tried very hard, it is honestly just your average dystopian.

Overall View

From what I know, this book was very well received, so I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have very high expectations for it.

My first point of critique would have to be the length. It’s a pretty lengthy book, which is good…sometimes. In this case, however, I felt it was about 200 pages too long. I felt the author often got lost in describing things that were not important to the story and that I, frankly, did not care about. This, of course, made this long book feel like not a lot happened. When I finished, I felt like hardly anything did happen. I felt like he lingered too much on the slow parts, and not enough on the parts that actually made the story exciting.

While some of the characters where amusing and their ambitions relatable, they felt entirely 2-D. Two of them falling for the insta-love trope around page 200, which I thought the character was going to be above…she was not. Especially when she is fronted as a “tough” character, yet so easily gives into to a lot of things.

This idea is pretty neat, I guess. The air outside kills you if you breath it, and people are put to death to clean the sensors outside of the Silo that allow people to see outside. However, one thing that was huge tear in the story, were the stairs. One of the main things the author continuously harps on is how hard the stairs are to climb for everyone. They have a huge department of computers, huge generators and water pumps…yet no elevator? If the stairs caused this much of a hassle for everyone, why weren’t elevators present, especially with advances they had?

Also, I did feel as though the book never really committed to this idea of an adult dystopian. You could have easily made the characters teen, and nothing would have been different.

Overall I just felt this book was too much and too long. While I’m not saying it wasn’t enjoyable, it was just, overall, nothing new.

Final Rating:

Characters: 3.0 / 5.0

Action/Dialogue: 2.5 / 5.0

Overall Story: 3.0 / 5.0

FINAL RATING: 3.0 (2.84)

Final Thoughts:

I feel like it’s usually a huge hit or miss with books like this – books that get extremely popular outside of the book world, that is. Overall I just found this story no different from a lot of other things I’ve read, and just found the writing very lengthy at times.

Don’t get me wrong, if post-apocalyptic/dystopian is your main thing, then you’ll probably like it and may or may not agree with me.

However, I do think this novel was about 200 pages too long and could have easily had the same effect with less pages. But, I can understand why people generally liked it. It just didn’t hit all the marks I wanted it to as an avid reader.

If you’re curious, you can purchase it here.

Other than that, I have some exciting things coming up soon, so keep an eye out!

Have a wonderful weekend.

Best,

Daniel xx

 

 

 

THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French (Review)

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452 Pages

I was first introduced to Tana French through a Popular Fiction class focusing on Detective Fiction through her novel Faithful Place, and I enjoyed it so much that this book ended up on my Christmas list!

Detective Stephen Moran is bored to death, stuck in Cold Cases. When one day, Holly Mackey, the daughter of the infamous DetectiveJohn Mackey, comes to him with new evidence to the murder of a popular teenage boy at her school, Chris Harper, gone quiet for almost a year. With a card posted on the school bulletin-board that says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM, Moran sees his window to get out of cold cases and into where he really wants to be – The Dublin Murder Squad. Detective Moran soon meets the head Detective on the case – Antionette Conway. Conway, needing a new partner, gives Moran the chance he’s always wanted. But, they both know time is running out on figuring out who killed Chris. Heading to the all-girls Catholic school that this all took place at, the two detectives have one last chance to figure out who killed Chris – with two rival, teenage cliques as the main suspects. Will they be able to tell through the lies? Will Moran be able to prove himself to Conway? Or will the secrets between the tight-nit cliques be their ultimate defeat?

Basic Thoughts

OH MAN!

Let me say that again.

OH MAN!

I don’t even know how to begin to explain how much I enjoyed this read! Ever since being introduced to French last year, I have been impressed, twice over, by how fantastic her writing is – how flawlessly she can weave a story and somehow not make it directly about the murder, but also make you care LOADS about the characters and what happens to them. And that’s a damn hard thing to do.

While this is apparently the ‘fifth’ book in The Dublin Murder Squad Series, you definitely do NOT need to have read any of the other books. While it could be helpful to have read Faithful Place first, as their are recurring characters and a couple of references to that work (I was unaware of this going in), it is most definitely not necessary.

Pros:

  • French is an absolutely seamless writer. You will want to read EVERY SINGLE WORD and bathe in them. It’s that good. There were ZERO parts that I found uninteresting or boring.
  • The characters are absolutely stunning. I felt like I could touch them and was their best friend.
  • The interrogation scenes of the suspects are phenomenal. As this is about a quarter of the book, it is a big part, and she manages to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
  • The prose (writing) are just downright beautiful.

Cons

  • Conway could be slightly overbearing in the beginning.
  • While you could take a guess at who did it, it is very hard to be FOR SURE on who did it until it just flat out tells you, but this is a very minor con, as I love finding things out AS the characters do, though I know some readers like to play detective.

Overall View

The mystery, the characters, the dialogue, the everything is something that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. French manages to leave no loose threads in this tightly packed bow of a book.

Every single character is flawless, and it keeps you gasping for air until the very end. Her prose are just downright beautiful – from describing a tree to someone’s deepest, darkest emotion, French knows how to tug at your heart-strings.

As stated above, Detective Conway can be a little over-bearing when you are first introduced to her, but that’s just part of her character. And, as stated above, as well, it was difficult for me to solve the case myself, as you are learning WITH the detectives, which makes ME like it more, but it might be a con to some (however the story does go between past and present to help you have a little insight along the way). I definitely did not see the ending coming, which is one of the main things I look for in Detective Fiction – being fooled!

Final Rating:

Characters: 5.0 / 5.0

Action/Dialogue: 4.5 / 5.0

Overall Story: 5.0 / 5.0

FINAL RATING: 5.0

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Final Thoughts:

If you like Detective Mysteries, MY GOODNESS WHAT ARE DOING STILL READING THIS?!?! GO READ THIS BOOK!!! BUY IT HERE!!

But, like I always say, this is just the honest opinion of an English Major.

Best,

Daniel xx

 

SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Stephen King and Owen King

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Stephen King is one of the most renown authors in the world of Fiction, known by readers and non-readers world wide for his incredible. Sleeping Beautiesa book written by Stephen and his son, Owen, called for an interesting call to the fans and to the fresh readers of King. Could he and his son weave a seamless story for King’s already huge fanbase? Our would they dissapoint?

Sleeping Beauties begins when a strange woman, later known by the name of Evie Black, walks out of the forest, killing two drug dealers in her wake. Soon, the woman population around the world start going to sleep only to be wrapped in a shrouded cocoon, not waking up, and if disturbed can become deadly. But, when Evie goes to sleep, she is perfectly normal. What will the men do with this mystery woman? And how will they react in this world without women?

Basic Thoughts:

I received this book as a Christmas present, and I knew, going into it, that there was going to be a strong, political message that the Kings were going to try and get across. I mean, a world without woman? How would the men get along?

But, that was fine with me. I thought it would be an interesting subject matter. My main concern at the time was: Could the Kings come together and write a story without me knowing that one King was writing over the others? Would this political message get in the way of the story? I guess we would find out.

Pros:

  • While I do consider myself a pretty heavy reader, this is only the second Stephen King (and first Owen King) book that I’ve read, and as stated above, I was weary of this “co-author” thing. The good about this, besides the first 50 pages maybe, I wasn’t able to detect any transition of writing style, making for that “seamless” feeling story.
  • The story is an interesting one, but the thing that really drives this are the characters. And, while the amount of characters is a little hard to keep up with some times, I felt that they all had a pretty powerful, distinct voice, which strengthened the overall conflict.
  • When the action scenes did occur, they were pretty damn cool.

Cons

  • This book is 700 pages exactly, which is definitely not a “light” book. The entire thing is a heavy based story with a heavy based conflict. That being said, I felt the entire book was about 200 pages too long. If the characters spent more time trying to find a solution rather than trying to prevent the inevitable, it would have made for a lot stronger story.
  • Without the political message, is there really a story worth telling?
  • Evie Black

Overall View:

The Kings manage to weave together a complex story with the question: Could society function without women? And while I think that’s a very interesting question to bring up, as a critical reader, I have to ask, is there a story without that political stand point?

I am sadly going to have to say “no”.

We are presented with this character, who may or may not be a protagonist, named Evie Black who is possibly responsible for all of this mess, and by the end, it’s almost as if the entire world forgets about her. The book fails to answer the question that readers have been waiting 700 pages to find out: WHO THE HELL IS SHE?

Also, when I read something (and I knew this going into it, so bare with me), I don’t want to be shoved with a political message. And while it was subtle enough that a person who never watches the news could not register the message, I couldn’t help but feel the Kings put this out as a “hey…we’re men who are feminists…we just thought you should know that…” leaving the reader just wanting to toss the book across the room at some points.

Wrapping it up in a sentence, though, without the political message you are left with the giant question of “Who cares?”

Final Rating

Characters: 4.5/5

Action/Dialogue: 3.5/5

Overall Story: 2/5

FINAL RATING: 3.5

 

Daniel Peralta