Books, books and more books

Short Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North)

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August - Claire North

SeriesN/A

Publisher: Redblock (2014)

Genre(s): Mystery, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction

 

I really liked this book and YAY for Claire North for making non-linear narrative work! 

However, I didn't really like that the story was so narrow in scope (although it is grandiose, or it seems so): I wanted to know all the secrets of people like Harry, I wanted to know all the whys. I was more like Vincent than like Harry, I guess.

Still, a very good book!

Review: The Female of the Species (Mindy McGinnis)

The Female of the Species - Mindy McGinnis

Series: N/A

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (2016)

Genre(s): Mystery, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult

 

Me: cool, it's batgirl! Kick-ass, dude!

Also me: damn, insta-love... why? WHYYYY?

Also me: why is everything so freaking rushed?

Also me: yea, well want rushed? I can't connect with the characters.

Also me: I have the notion that I should be weeping at the ending, but I can't make myself care all that much. I did cry in that part about the puppies tho.

So, basically, great idea, but everything was so rushed I had no time to connect to the characters, they had no time to gain depth and the story had no time to take off. Superficially explored themes of rape culture, sexism and pedophilia. I'll say that the author was successful in showing how rape culture is so pervasive and it's just in the little things.

Could have been a really "food-for-thought" kind of book. It just felt confusing and a jumble. Just wasn't for me, I guess.

Review: Long Lankin (Lindsey Barraclough)

Long Lankin - Lindsey Barraclough

Series: N/A

Publisher: Corgi Childrens (2012)

Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Historical Fiction

 

Long Lankin is (according to Wikipedia) based on an English ballad called "Lamkin". The author took this old ballad and developed an entire story around it. Personally I think she created a wonderful book.
 
Some things I noticed about this book that are relevant:
 
1. I believe the book has been mislabeled. It is being marketed as "young adult" but the level of exposition and the lack of a romantic sub-plot will probably not make it very appealing to people who enjoy typical young adult novels.
 
2. It is necessary to invest time and patience in this book. The first 200 pages are almost boring because of exposition: Barraclough develops the background of the story (a small english village at the end of the 1950's) in detail. Cora (our heroine) doesn't just discover about Long Lankin on the first day.
 
3. The world portrayed is somewhat raw and this makes it realistic: children eat little or spoiled food (common after the War, when Britain was still recovering from its effects), they play in bomb shelters and parents aren't perfect (but not in the usual YA way... they are more than distant). While I thought the exposition was excessive and almost info-dumpey at times it did paint a very realistic and interesting picture of post-war Britain.
 
4. The wait for the "supernatural" part of the story is definitely worth it.
 
Overall, a good read that will make you stay up all night.

 

Blast from the past: originally read and reviewed in 2012

Review: Imaginary Girls (Nova Ren Suma)

Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma

Series: N/A

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (2011)

Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Mystery

 

This book is beautiful. And it's ugly, sometimes, even. And it's definitely weird.

 
I was in a reading slump. I didn't feel like reading anything at all and that is a very scary feeling for a book lover as all book lovers know. I started reading Imaginary Girls in this mindset, and at first I wasn't interested. Not much really.
 
But then the pace of the book picked up and I wanted to know more and more and I just had to read. And I also had to stop because I wanted this book to last, if that makes sense.
 
Ruby and Chloe are sisters. They might as well be orphans because they have different fathers and their mother loves her bottles more than she loves them. But it's all right, because Ruby takes care of Chloe. Ruby can get anything she wants, from anyone.
 
And so Ruby raises Chloe and tells her stories about the town that was there before their town but was destroyed by water when New York City decided to make a reservoir. And that the townsfolk didn't leave and now live in the underwater city.
 
One day an accident happens. Chloe is swimming and she finds a dead girl. She is sent to live with her father but after two years, Ruby wants her back. And Ruby always gets what she wants.
 
Imaginary Girls was... well, I can't even say. I really liked it because it is just so... strange (but good strange). There's a main character who isn't the main character, there is love that is more obsession than love but in the end it is love and the emotions portrayed in this novel turn everything around and make us doubt our assumptions about the characters.
 
I can't even describe this book properly. It has that ethereal quality of otherness that so many paranormal books try to achieve but can't. It is truly compelling and beautiful, not because of the writing being poetic or anything. It's just the story, the overall subtleness of the plot and of the characters that make it so. And Chloe's unique and flawed perspective is what makes this book so magical.
 
Imaginary Girls is the story of two sisters that had a hard time growing up. It's about love so strong it ends up destroying instead of nurturing. The characters were spellbinding and interesting. The story was haunting and the paranormal elements were subtle and so well placed you never really know if there is something supernatural.
 
The plot is well constructed and keeps you guessing. But what really makes this book shine are the characters. They seem so real and at the same time so... other, so different. I must say I didn't much care for Chloe's "love interest", though.
 
Overall, a great read. It is a mysterious book that will keep you reading just to find out what is real and what is not. Recommended.

 

Blast from the past: originally read and reviewed in 2012

Review: Gardens of the Moon (Steven Erikson)

Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #1

Publisher: Tor Fantasy (2005 - First edition 1999)

Genre(s): Fantasy

 

So... The first epic book of epicness.

I must say I am a bit disappointed. It's not that I hated it. I just thought it was too confusing for its own good. I don't mind being thrown into the action right away, with no exposition or development of the world if I'm getting a crash-course as I go. But that doesn't really happen in this book, and I feel like that is not very acceptable. The world seems to have no rules, a sketchy past and no order. It makes no sense (or very little).

The action spans over more than 6oo pages but if you really look through it, the plot is thin and can be told in about 200+. Basically you have the end of a successful campaign, the beginning of another one and this one has a lot of players and can go right or wrong. But ultimately, everything is very confusing and you don't actually have a lot of foreshadowing or complex maneuvering on the part of the characters involved to make you speculate about what is going on. It's like you're in the middle of a riot and the author throws sound and lights at you, and you're confused, but the actual riot is no more than a tame gathering.

I'm not sure I'm explaining myself very well, but here's the bottom line: the ideas seem interesting; the execution is all over the place. The book is big, but the story is small, the characters have the potential of epicness but are never more than badly developed stereotypes.

I've read quite a few fantasy books and, yeah, I've read worse. But I've also read better.

I'll eventually come back to this world, because I sense there is more to all the players than meets the eye, but for right now I'm satisfied with my taste of this series.

Short Review: Ashley Bell (Dean Koontz)

Ashley Bell: A Novel - Dean Koontz

Series: Ashley Bell #1

Publisher: Bantam (2015)

Genre(s): Thriller, Mystery, Horror, Urban Fantasy

 

RATING: I don't even know.

This was my first book by Dean Koontz and I am so disappointed. It was a painful read all around, it took me a long time to read, I had to force myself to read it and the story was so trite and contrived and weird (not a good weird either), not to mention kind of predictable. Nothing worked for me in this book.

Short Review: Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (Sarah MacLean)

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover - Sarah MacLean

Series: The Rules of Scoundrels #4

Publisher: Avon (2014)

Genre(s): Historical Romance

 

Meh.

I really dislike how Sarah MacLean picks certain words, phrases or expressions and uses them in excess all through the book. In this book everything was "beautiful" and West was "all wolf", all the time. Everyone "unlocked" lots of times. She also has a tendency to repeat these expressions in the same paragraph or in close proximity. Annoying.

Story-wise, the love story was unrealistic, all lust and very little substance.

Kudos to the meddling heroes of the previous books, though.

Review: Startide Rising (David Brin)

Startide Rising - David Brin

Series: The Uplift Saga #2

Publisher: Bantam Spectra (2010 - first edition 1983)

Genre(s): Science Fiction

 

If book one is too short, book two is too long; and it still suffers from the same problems. Focus; it has little of it. We have lots of points of view, but most of them are of people (and dolphins and chimps) doing trivial things, most of the time.

Again, we have a hint of a great premise: the first spaceship almost entirely "manned" by dolphins is in her maiden voyage and encounters a bunch of strange, abandoned ships. They even recover an (even) stranger corpse that corresponds to no known species in the Five Galaxies. Who are these mysterious aliens that not even the Library recognizes?

We never know. This all happens "off book" as the book opens with the ship stranded in a deserted planet, trying to hide from multiple hostile alien fleets who want the information they have gathered. And while it's plausible that trying to survive would put their curiosity on-hold, it's a pity that the entire book (which was big, I believe about 400+ pages) is spent telling the reader every little detail of a convoluted plan to escape the planet. The book gets boring half-way, with descriptions of what everyone is doing (and I mean everything, from sleeping and camping to fixing the ship's systems) and some very nasty "villains" arise among the terran crew, even while the aliens fight overhead for the right to the information, but there is no sense of urgence.

A bit disappointed. On to book 3, let's hope the author incorporates all his big ideas and develops his universe more.

Review: Sundiver (David Brin)

Sundiver - David Brin

Series: The Uplift Saga #1

Publisher: Bantam Spectra (2010 - first edition 1980)

Genre(s): Science Fiction

 

Edition read was the following: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...

I'll do a proper review later on, maybe, but I am disappointed in this first installment.

The premise is amazing: Humanity made contact with other oxygen-breathing species from all over the Galaxy. Humanity is considered a strange case, since they don't seem to have "patrons" that have evolved them to sencience; apparently we did this without the aid of another species (by natural evolution) and, as such, don't have the Client-Patron relationship that most species throughout the Galaxy have.

So, Humanity is special and there is that mystery: did we really have a Patron? Did we evolve on our own?

At the same time, Earth is preparing to go on an expedition to the Sun, using a mix of human and galactic tech. And we do find what seems to be life on the Sun! Who are these life-forms? Can they be Humanity's long lost Patrons?

All fascinating right? But we never get answers because this book is about the protagonist solving a mystery on board the Sunship. Apparently some crafty aliens don't want Humankind to succeed.

The mystery was so stale and presented in such an illogical way (we only knew something was happening because suddenly the main character would say "aha! Conspiracy" and proceed to explain what alien A or B had done to sabotage the enterprise) that it had very little interest.

The characters had no developement and were very stereotypical. And the fascinating premise was never explored!

Overall, a weak first book. Let's see what happens in books 2 and 3.

Short Review: Cast in Shadow (Michelle Sagara)

Cast in Shadow - Michelle Sagara, Michelle Sagara West

Series: Chronicles of Elantra #1

Publisher: Luna Books (2007)

Genre(s): Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Romance

 

Wow. The writing on this was atrocious. I literally did not understand half the book because it made no sense with its convoluted writing and half-explained ideas. I felt like I had to be inside the author's head to fully understand what was going on. Not to mention the plot was really thin...

The author was fond of sentences like "it was the right thing. But it wasn't". These sort of things are all over the book, it made me crazy.

Pity, the concept isn't half bad...