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Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Update June 2018

Thailand News
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Book Review
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Science & Nature
Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Book Review

June 23, 2018 - June 29, 2018

Kenneth Johnson’s ‘The Darwin Variant’ is engaging novel


 Jeff Ayers

When scientists calculate that a comet will impact Earth, chaos reigns, but the worst is yet to come in Kenneth Johnson’s sci-fi thriller, “The Darwin Variant.”

The vast cast of characters ranges from scientists to high-school students, and all of them have a stake in the world-changing possibilities if the celestial body strikes Earth. Each character tells his or her individual story, providing depth in all of the players in this scenario.

When calculations and some high-tech weaponry provide a solution to the dilemma, the world cheers as the comet breaks up. Except for some small pieces, the damage is visibly minimal. Unfortunately, a mysterious virus was encased inside the cold ice, and when this strange life form encounters the Earth’s atmosphere, it thrives. A young high-school couple is the first to discover the strange substance. They become aggressive and ruthless at the expense of others. Soon animals start exhibiting signs of excessive violence, and plants exposed to this virus are invaded and overrun by a new genetic code. It quickly moves past isolation, and if the slow permutation isn’t stopped, everyone will become infected.

Johnson takes the scenario of fear of collision with a rogue object from space and turns it on its head by making things worse after everything seems resolved. This approach turns the narrative into a contemporary version of the paranoid classic film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and a dose of the propaganda film from World War II “Triumph of the Will” by alluding to the seeds of a new master race. Fans of Johnson will also see echoes of “V,” his television show from the 1980s.

Johnson has written another engaging novel. (AP)

June 16, 2018 - June 22, 2018

Action is fast-paced in Laird Barron's 'Blood Standard'

 Bruce Desilva

Isaiah Coleridge, muscle for the Chicago mob's Alaska subsidiary, isn't your typical Mafia hit man.

He's college educated, frequently alludes to Greek and Roman classics and relishes his underworld moniker — Hercules.

Coleridge kills without remorse until two of his bosses invite him on a boat ride and blaze away at a herd of walruses, planning to butcher them for ivory. There, he discovers that his capacity for violence has limits.

He chops one wiseguy in the throat, points a gun at the other and flees, turning up at a remote New York farm whose New Age owners take in all manner of lost souls.

That's where the heart of Laird Barron's tale begins. "Blood Standard" is his first noir crime novel, but he's no novice, having won the Shirley Jackson Award three times for horror and gothic fantasy.

Coleridge is settling in at the farm when one of its denizens — a teenage girl fresh out of lockup — goes missing. Coleridge doesn't like her, but nevertheless sets out to track her down.

His pursuit soon pits him against white supremacists, a Native American criminal gang, the New York mafia, a team of former mercenaries, corrupt local cops, a bent FBI agent and nearly every modern villain short of Voldemort.

Along the way, he is shot, stabbed and bludgeoned beyond the endurance of mere mortals. But Hercules gives worse than he gets, and he cannot be deterred.

The action is fast-paced, the characters well drawn, the settings vivid and the hardboiled prose quirky in the manner of a writer who cut his teeth on horror and poetry.

Coleridge, son of a special ops officer who got away with killing his wife, muses about his fate: "Only a fool believes he can prevail against what has been bred into blood and bone." (AP)

June 9, 2018 - June 15, 2018

Cohen hilariously tackles work-life balance in ‘The Glitch’

Shelley Stone is a hard-working CEO of a Silicon Valley tech company that sells a small device called a Conch, which helps improve everyday life. The Conch offers helpful advice and prompts such as “take an umbrella” or “turn left on Main Street” when worn. Unfortunately, the tiny piece of technology has recently been known to encourage owners to “jump off the bridge.”

Shelley was struck by lightning as a teenager, so nothing seems implausible to her at this point in her life. She approaches every challenge with clear and precise thinking, no matter how absurd the problem may appear. She’s a master at efficiency and will stop at nothing to make sure the Conch glitch is handled carefully — even if it means remaining at work until the early hours of the morning.

Her company is her life. Although blogs and newspaper articles make her seem like a supermom, the reality is that a team of people help Shelley care for her family. She doesn’t see a problem with this lifestyle until her husband volunteers to exit his own rat race so he can see the kids more often. Shelley feels a twinge of guilt. Should she want to stay home more often instead of flying around the world delivering TED talks?

On top of her husband’s highly unusual revelation, Shelley begins to experience her own Conch abnormalities. When she meets another woman overseas who looks like a much younger version of herself, her Conch instructs her to “meet Shelley Stone.” The young girl has the same eyes, the same scars and knows intimate details of her life. Is this woman a lookalike? Is she Shelley from the future? Or has Shelley reached a critical point in her non-stop schedule that has finally resulted in a nervous breakdown?

“The Glitch” takes a hard look at the definition of work-life balance. Through hilarious antics and sensational story lines, author Elisabeth Cohen encourages readers to slow down, take a breath and consider the perspective of a younger you. Would that person think you are living your best life?

June 2, 2018 - June 8, 2018

Author unravels new view of Cinderella story

Lincee Ray (AP)

Have you ever considered the beloved fairy tale of Cinderella from the perspective of the evil stepmother? What if she wasn’t wicked at all, but a loving woman who cared deeply for all of her children? Danielle Teller’s debut novel, “All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother,” answers this question with a fascinating reimagining of the original tale.

Before Agnes was an “evil” stepmother, she was a laundry girl and a housemaid. Agnes is strong, independent and a hard worker, but that doesn’t stop her from being seduced by a young man who has no intention of marrying her once it’s evident that she’s pregnant.

Agnes is asked to leave her housemaid job and finds sanctuary in a nearby village. Even though her “traveling husband” is barely around, she eventually makes a home for him and their two daughters. Her determination to survive pushes her forward in life.

When tragedy strikes on all fronts, Agnes is forced to send the girls to school while she takes a job as a nursemaid to the infant daughter of the manor’s Lord and Lady. The child’s name is Elfida. Everyone calls her Ella.

Agnes develops a sweet bond with Ella and treats the young girl as her own. She raises Ella to be kind, gentle and full of compassion. Sadly, after Ella’s mother suddenly dies Agnes is left running the household, as well as raising the Lord’s daughter. It only makes sense for the two to eventually marry. Agnes doesn’t want to be a spinster. The Lord doesn’t want to raise a young girl on his own. With Ella already attached to Agnes, the union seems logical.

After they marry, Agnes brings her daughters back to live at the manor. Ella is threatened by the unique bond between Agnes and her other daughters. She broods in the attic, befriends rodents and whines when Agnes suggests that Ella isn’t grateful for all her father has given their family. As punishment, Agnes makes her do laundry for an entire day. Soon after, rumors begin to swirl that Agnes forces Ella to live in the attic and do the cleaning for the entire manor. What’s worse is that Agnes has refused to let Ella go to the king’s ball.

“All the Ever Afters” provides a unique view of Ella’s circumstances and how the young girl was far from perfect. Readers will feel empathy for Agnes, consider various misunderstandings and think twice before labeling her as wicked.



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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Kenneth Johnson’s ‘The Darwin Variant’ is engaging novel

Action is fast-paced in Laird Barron's 'Blood Standard'

Cohen hilariously tackles work-life balance in ‘The Glitch’

Author unravels new view of Cinderella story


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