Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

From Goodreads:

“On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it.

The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.

But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark…and discover the truth about their world.”

I’ve really been getting into SF lately and this just furthered my enjoyment. Humans on an alien plant. Fascinating. The way they have evolved is almost backwards. No technology whatsoever and they only have the basic skills to survive. They re-tell stories each year so they don’t forget and yet it’s almost like playing telephone – originals parts get lost or changed. Language is the same way. They repeat some words, like big big, and the names of things get changed as well, Any Virsy = Anniversary. What really went through my mind more than once was Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I kept hearing “Walker” in their singsong voices.

Overall, I really liked the story and would recommend it to anyone who is also into SF.

The Martian by Andy Weir

From goodreads:

“Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

I loved this book so much. It was wonderfully written. Where it could have become very technical, the author made the science and space in general very easy to understand. I could not put this novel down and finished it in record time. By far, my favorite novel of 2014 and I highly recommend it!

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

From Goodreads:

“In 2011, Sarah Jio burst onto the fiction scene with two sensational novels–The Violets of March and The Bungalow. With Blackberry Winter–taking its title from a late-season, cold-weather phenomenon–Jio continues her rich exploration of the ways personal connections can transcend the boundaries of time.

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.

Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways…”

Such a wonderful story! Sarah Jio is a gifted storyteller. She injects so much emotion into the story that you really believe it to be true. (I was in tears more than once). I highly recommend this book!

The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd

From Goodreads:

 

London, 1850. Charles Maddox had been an up-and-coming officer for the Metropolitan police until a charge of insubordination abruptly ended his career. Now he works alone, struggling to eke out a living by tracking down criminals. Whenever he needs it, he has the help of his great-uncle Maddox, a legendary “thief taker,” a detective as brilliant and intuitive as they come.

On Charles’s latest case, he’ll need all the assistance he can get.

To his shock, Charles has been approached by Edward Tulkinghorn, the shadowy and feared attorney, who offers him a handsome price to do some sleuthing for a client. Powerful financier Sir Julius Cremorne has been receiving threatening letters, and Tulkinghorn wants Charles to—discreetly—find and stop whoever is responsible.

But what starts as a simple, open-and-shut case swiftly escalates into something bigger and much darker. As he cascades toward a collision with an unspeakable truth, Charles can only be aided so far by Maddox. The old man shows signs of forgetfulness and anger, symptoms of an age-related ailment that has yet to be named.

Intricately plotted and intellectually ambitious, The Solitary House is an ingenious novel that does more than spin an enthralling tale: it plumbs the mysteries of the human mind.

I liked this book, but I wish I would have read it at a different time.  I think I would have liked it a lot more. I think the author wove a good plot, but it was a bit confusing to me to follow. And, for the star of the story, Charles, to be a detective, he was not very observant. It was frustrating at times.  It did all come together at the end, but even the ending I found confusing, but maybe that’s just me.  If you are into historical fiction, I think you would like this book.

Island Passage by Sherry Hartzler

From Goodreads:

 

Francine Durrett discovers the receipts for jewelry and a room at the Blue Moon Motel at the bottom of her husband’s underwear drawer. She thinks he’s amazingly stupid. Or…he wanted to get caught. Devastated by her husband’s infidelity, Francine flees her upscale suburban home with her angry fifteen-year-old daughter and returns to the Lake Erie island of Middle Bass, where she spent childhood summers with her best friend, Claudia Angelo. Francine hopes to heal a broken heart, re-connect with her daughter, and attempt to rediscover the simple, uncomplicated love she had known as a child.

Not long after Francine’s return to Middle Bass, Claudia arrives unannounced on the doorstep of the island house. Francine has not seen her friend for over five years. Claudia is rich, brash, and stunningly beautiful, but unlike Francine, her childhood memories recall nothing but lies, poverty, and neglect. For Claudia, the subject of her past is a dead issue. She comes to the island to repay a long-standing debt, rooted in deception.

Alan Bromsley grew up on the island, a free-spirited boy who once challenged the world and had little fear of any consequence. He now operates a small island flight service. No stranger to grief, Alan is a loner, a man at war with himself. In this tender-hearted story, Alan is confronted by the two women he once loved and lost twenty years ago.

Island Passage brings to life the reuniting of three estranged friends, torn apart by unforeseen circumstances, and then brought together in a tragedy that inadvertently unravels an old secret—a secret that could ultimately destroy them all.

I really enjoyed this book. My mother-in-law lent it to me as she is friends with the author who lives in our area. I decided to read it because it was based on Middle Bass Island up in Lake Erie – almost like home turf.  The author ended up making me want to buy a home  and live full time there! I was surprised at how much I liked the story. The characters were more than one dimensional.  I cared about them and what happened to them.  She really delved into character development  and it made for a richer story. I definitely recommend this book. You will enjoy it.