Book Review: Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson

Forty Signs of Rain (Science in the Capital #1)Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary:  The bestselling author of the classic Mars trilogy and The Years of Rice and Salt returns with a riveting new trilogy of cutting-edge science, international politics, and the real-life ramifications of global warming as they are played out in our nation’s capital—and in the daily lives of those at the center of the action. Hauntingly realistic, here is a novel of the near future that is inspired by scientific facts already making headlines.

When the Arctic ice pack was first measured in the 1950s, it averaged thirty feet thick in midwinter. By the end of the century it was down to fifteen. One August the ice broke. The next year the breakup started in July. The third year it began in May. That was last year.

It’s an increasingly steamy summer in the nation’s capital as Senate environmental staffer Charlie Quibler cares for his young son and deals with the frustrating politics of global warming. Charlie must find a way to get a skeptical administration to act before it’s too late—and his progeny find themselves living in Swamp World. But the political climate poses almost as great a challenge as the environmental crisis when it comes to putting the public good ahead of private gain. 

While Charlie struggles to play politics, his wife, Anna, takes a more rational approach to the looming crisis in her work at the National Science Foundation. There a proposal has come in for a revolutionary process that could solve the problem of global warming—if it can be recognized in time. But when a race to control the budding technology begins, the stakes only get higher. As these everyday heroes fight to align the awesome forces of nature with the extraordinary march of modern science, they are unaware that fate is about to put an unusual twist on their work—one that will place them at the heart of an unavoidable storm. 

With style, wit, and rare insight into our past, present, and possible future, this captivating novel propels us into a world on the verge of unprecedented change—in a time quite like our own. Here is Kim Stanley Robinson at his visionary best, offering a gripping cautionary tale of progress—and its price—as only he can tell it.

I've read and very much enjoyed Seveneves so I figured I'd give KSR a read on his climate fiction trilogy. I've only ever read one other climate fiction book and it was an anthology that I felt was a bit hit or miss so I still don't know if my scifi loving heart extends too far into this sub-genre. Or, I should just stick to the summer blockbuster movies where the CGI is gripping with great sheets of ice dramatically falling away and crazy mega waves wiping out coastal regions while actors go on about oceanic desalinisation rates and jet stream consequences. Because I have to say, after reading this, I think I like the watching more than the reading of CliFi.

Technically there's nothing wrong with KSR's story but it feels like it's mostly set up for the big stuff. All the pieces are present: the impending catastrophe, the scientists tasked with a solution, the politicians & politics that must also participate in the solution & the inevitable masses who will suffer no matter what, while fewer survive & will probably wish they hadn't at some point. This makes me think that the strength of the total story of Seveneves was served by making it a big damned book instead of splitting it. I've a sneaking suspicion that I'll like the next book in this series better and likely will feel similarly about part of the third. Unfortunately, as I've read the first, I'm not inclined to jump right into the second. It was a quick enough read but I have to admit that I'm glad this wasn't my introduction to KSR because I'm fairly sure I'd not go on.

I'd only recommend this for CliFi fans, those who can roll with KSR's story telling (there's a pacing & tech spec info thing that occurs which seems to be his way) or those who are just looking to binge all three books in a week (doable).

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Book Review: The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton

The ExclusivesThe Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:  1996. Freya Seymour and Josephine Grey are invincible - beautiful and brilliant, the two best friends are on the cusp of Oxbridge, and the success they always dreamed they'd share.

2014. Josephine hasn't heard from Freya for eighteen long and tortured years. And then Freya gets in touch, wanting to meet.

Beginning with one ill-fated night, The Exclusives charts the agonising spiral of friendship gone wrong, the heartache and betrayal of letting down those closest to you and the poisonous possibilities of what we wouldn't do when everything we prize is placed under threat. 

And in the end, as she realises she cannot run for ever, Josephine must answer one question: can she face the woman that she used to know?

The Exclusives is Rebecca Thornton's powerful debut novel about the pressures of life in an exclusive boarding school.

Any time a book touts boarding school best friends who are estranged after something dark happened, my interest in piqued and it's a fairly sure bet, I'll give it a read. So when The Exclusives came across my general book perusal, I checked it out. Alas, not available in the US yet. So of course my next stop was a UK outlet to buy it. I got it into my hot little hands and now that I've read it, it was totally worth it. Funnily enough, I felt this was a 3 star book somewhere in the middle but by book's end, I was firmly in the 4 star feels.

Josephine and Freya kept me turning the pages and while I did think something lacked in the 1996 thread, I was still engaged and eager to find out what happened next. I do admit to breaking off in the middle to locate the chapter of the fateful night where everything diverged for the two girls and then when I went back, I felt things were less meandering. I did wish the secret were bigger but by the final pages of the book, I felt that the secret had so damaged both, it was huge enough. I also wished there'd been more about how Freya got to the point at which we see her in the present. Actually, I'd have liked to see more of both women in a year in the past that wasn't 1996 (maybe their 10 year out mark).

All in all, this was a good look in at a female friendship as touted in the blurbs and it was well rendered how two so close could tear themselves & one another apart. It's not as deep as The Secret History to be sure but it does have more depth than Mean Girls. I'll be on the lookout for future works by Thornton. Definitely recommended.

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Book Review: The Girl In the Ice (DCI Erika Foster #1) by Robert Bryndza

The Girl In The Ice (DCI Erika Foster, #1)The Girl In The Ice by Robert Bryndza
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:  Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one. 

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. 

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London. 

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding? 

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika. 

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong… resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?

I enjoy a good mystery and I'm one of those readers that doesn't mind so much if I figure out the murderer before all is revealed as long as the steps there keep me engaged. I wasn't disappointed here.

I will say that the clue to the killer's identity is a quick mention like a throw-away fact during the investigation but that just made it all the more cordoned off in caution tape with flood lights all around the killer. It practically leapt off the page at me screaming "It's (spoiler removed)!!!!". I was a page flipping freak racing through and every time there was a bit from the killer's POV it pulled me along even more. What also helped along the way was that the amount of dysfunction the Douglas-Browns had on display was compelling and only second to the amount of simmering full on crazy that was always threatening to boil over like the hot mess they were. DCI Erika Foster kept it all grounded with her tenacious pursuit while her own flaws hindered as much as helped her oftentimes (think Jane Tennison of Prime Suspect without the drinking). I rooted for her and was glad she had Moss and Peterson backing her up, as they were awesome.

While I can't even contemplate how long my list of series I'm following is growing, I'll be adding this one because I want to know what's next for Erika and her team. They didn't get to raise a glass to their success in this one so I'm hoping for that next book. Recommended.

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Book Review: The Cavendon Luck: A Novel (Cavendon Hall #3) by Barbara Taylor Bradford

The Cavendon Luck: A Novel (Cavendon Hall, #3)The Cavendon Luck: A Novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a captivating epic saga of courage and honor, following the aristocratic Inghams and the loyal Swann family who have served them for centuries.

It is 1938 in England, and Miles and Cecily Ingham have lead the family in bringing the Cavendon estate back from the brink of disaster. But now, with the arrival of World War II, Cavendon Hall will face its biggest challenge yet. It is a challenge that will push the Inghams and Swanns to protect each other and the villagers, and reveal their true capacity for survival and rebirth.

Told with Bradford’s deft, evocative prose and featuring a beloved cast of characters, The Cavendon Luck is a story of intrigue, romance, sorrow, and joy that readers won’t soon forget.

After finishing this book, I think this may not be a trilogy but an actual series. I've blown through the first three and I'll say now that I want to read what comes next so if there's to be another... when will it be available?! Also, I think it's possible that future books could do with family trees as there are so very many characters to keep track of and the characters often have dialogue to remind the reader about relationships, which feels unnatural.

I very much enjoyed how not just the Cavendon women but even the women of the villages and collectively as the WI and Land Army girls were well represented. It was nice to know that not just Inghams and Swanns "stand up to be counted" and in difficult times "got on with it". With WWII taking place, all the ladies seemed to be at their best. I was most intrigued with Deidre's contributions and was most satisfied with her story overall. I still pine for an Ingham woman to officially go over to the Swann side. I'm so upset my favorite character was mostly absent in this book (until the 95% mark) & then when finally present was summarily and without much preamble, dispatched. But points to the author for breaking that Happily Ever After thing that the first two books had in spades. I'm upset but I respect that turn of events.

I liked the inclusion of Clark Gable quite a lot. Also, as I'd never read Barbara Taylor Bradford's Harte books, I wasn't familiar with Emma but her inclusion here makes me want to read those. Another recommendation. Reader, take it along on vacay this summer.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Review: The Cavendon Women (Cavendon Hall #2) by Barbara Taylor Bradford

The Cavendon WomenThe Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Bradford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:  Cavendon Women, the stunning sequel to Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Cavendon Hall follows the Inghams’ and the Swanns’ journey from a family weekend in the summer of 1926 through to the devastation of the Wall Street crash of 1929.  It all begins on a summer weekend in July of 1926 when, for the first time in years, the earl has planned a family weekend.  As the family members come together, secrets, problems, joys, and sorrows are revealed.  As old enemies come out of the shadows and the Swanns’ loyalty to the Ingham gets tested in ways none of them could have predicted, it’s up to the Cavendon women to band together and bring their family into a new decade, and a new way of life.

I began reading this straight away after finishing the first. It picks up six years after the first book and centers around Cecily Swann and Miles Ingham & their prior lost love. Miles wasn't much fleshed out as a character until the last quarter of the first book and neither really was Cecily, so there wasn't a lot of time for me to invest in their romance. I admit to being interested mostly in Cecily the business woman. Honestly, I wanted to know more about Deidre and DeLacy in the first book and was shocked when it's mentioned DeLacy's divorcing when I never even heard about who she'd dated or married to begin with. I felt cheated. Deidre was merely a feared spectre for Dulcie in book one so I was glad she featured more here.

I knew after reading the first book that any situation that would present itself that seemed insurmountable or wholly scandalous given the era, would work out pretty smoothly, so I didn't feel the sort of suspense I did when reading the first. The Inghams out progressive the Granthams with being able to throw off class convention & any kind of care about societal mores of the day. Will it all work out for the Inghams & Swanns? Yes. Almost perfectly and with minor exception. This is definitely the saga to read when you're feeling like you need some Happily Ever After in your reading life.

I did feel that if a character wasn't wholly on Team Ingham-Swann union, they were made out to be thoroughly unlikable. That didn't endear the couples to me or invest me in their destined love any more but rather diminished them a bit because I felt it was unnecessarily heavy handed. The freezing out of Lavina & what it took to get her back into their good graces & the subterfuge of reconciliation to converge on Felicity, reflected poorly on all of them, in my eyes. And the writing took another step saying that Lavinia was aging, losing her looks & apparently had no redeeming qualities her family could detect, when a man expressed romantic interest in her. This losing their looks thing was basically to be the same fate for Felicity and Clarissa when the plot decreed it for no other reason that to underscore why the Ingham men needed to be free of them for their true Swann loves. Sheesh. On the upside, characters always need flaws and this bit definitely fit the bill.

While the romances of the two main couples didn't much surprise, I was very invested in Deidre and DeLacy. I also had some interest in Dulcie but only insofar as another character displayed interest in her & as that was a Swann male, I shouldn't have bothered hoping she'd have any interest in him. That irresistible Ingham-Swann attraction & marrying only goes one way (though there is a long past relationship that's tossed in to give the Swann men a bit of cred & likely set up another plot for the next book). On the whole, I felt Dulcie was obnoxious in the first book and this book just solidified that I just don't like her nor do I find her as amazing as the other characters insist. Deidre and DeLacy's stories made up for just about everything for me here & I look forward to what's next (especially for DeLacy).

Like the first, this is an easy, breezy read and one I'm glad I bought. It that had me eagerly turning the pages to read what happened next and that's all to the good. As I read this over Memorial Day weekend, I'd recommend this as a good summer read.

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