This book is my first foray into urban fantasy, and wow! I loved the world that Lauren Beukes created, but at the same time, some things confused me.This book is my first foray into urban fantasy, and wow! I loved the world that Lauren Beukes created, but at the same time, some things confused me. That may be because I read too quickly and miss important details. However, I would love to see her write another book taking place in this world. The cover is wonderful and was one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book. The description and some of the key words on the back cover such as "Gangster Shamen" also helped my enthusiasm for reading this.
The plot centers around Zinzi December, a scam artist and criminal. Because of her criminal status, she carries around a sloth. This "aposymbiotic" relationship gives Zinzi magical powers. She is able to find lost objects, and this talent sets the plot in motion. She is hired by two other "zoos" who want her to find a missing pop singer. I felt that Zinzi was the force driving the book and the plot with the missing singer seemed very secondary and not important, until the reveal at the end of the book. The plot seemed more like a way to show off this world that Beuke created, but she does tie the loose ends together at the end, as far as the plot goes. The ending was a little unexpected, and somewhat sad, but was fitting for the gritty reality that Zinzi lives in. I didn't hate the plot, but it wasn't my favorite part of the book.
Zinzi isn't a great person, but Beukes' characterization is so good, that I wanted to know more about Zinzi and her past. Zinzi isn't sugarcoated, and it's clear why she has a sloth. I would love another book set in this world and centered around Zinzi. The book ends ambigously, thus setting Zinzi up for a second book. I don't know if this was her intention, but I do hope she revisits Zinzi and her world.
However, the plot did leave me with many questions. Beukes exposes her world slowly and incorporates it into the story, as well as including other pieces of writing such as emails or news articles interspersed among Zinzi's voice. Because of this sort of reveal, I spent a lot of time flipping back and forth and piecing all the facts together. Beukes also uses many words that are in another language and unfamiliar to me, so I sometimes wasn't able to glean the context. When I first started reading, I got the sense that only criminals/former criminals were "animalled." As I read more, it appears that it may be a disease or disorder, with a resulting magical power, but that doesn't explain why it only affects criminals. However, by the end of the book, it's pretty clear that only criminals are the ones "animalled." I was also confused about the Undertow, the process where zoos are killed after their animals die. There were several descriptions of it, but I found it a little vague. That seems to be the point, because the "zoos" don't really understand it either. Zinzi also mentions at one point that a "animalled" human can die, but their animal can live on for a few months afterwards, but is never the same. One of the keywords on the back is "Symbiotic Familiar" and this definitely describes the relationship between humans and their animals. The animals don't talk but they do react to their human's emotions and actions. I also wanted more information into why only criminals have animals and the process in which the animal is forced on them. Zinzi at one point describes it as her "scarlet letter" and non-criminals fear "zoos." Also, where do the animals come from? Are they part of the human's soul or something else? I think I will reread this book, because that might clear up some confusion. I think the author's point was to keep things somewhat vague, because even the characters in the book don't understand everything.
Overall, I give the book 3.5ish stars. I really, really loved the character of Zinzi, and I think the author did a good job of making a not sympathetic character very sympathetic. But I had a lot of questions about the world and Zinzi's past. ...more
Blah, that is how I felt about this book. I really loved the premise, which is why I still gave the book 2 stars. I loved the idea of international arBlah, that is how I felt about this book. I really loved the premise, which is why I still gave the book 2 stars. I loved the idea of international art thieves and their shady, yet cosmopolitan life.
However, the execution was lacking. I had to force myself to finish the book. I didn't really care about any of the characters, and the execution of the plot seemed haphazard to me.
Blah, I don't really have anything else to say about the book. ...more
My pick this week is Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma. This book is only a few years old (2009) but I never see this book mentioned that much. I was first dMy pick this week is Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma. This book is only a few years old (2009) but I never see this book mentioned that much. I was first drawn in by the cover and the name of the book. The cover deliciously illustrates the mood and tone of the book. It harkens back to old film noirs, which is what the book is also based on. This is truly a cover that fits the book and the themes within.
It's the summer between 7th and 8th grade and Dani lives in a small town in upstate New York. She is obsessed with old movies, especially movies with Rita Hayworth. She uses films to narrate her life and to understand it, and she spends massive amounts of time at the local movie theatre, which shows old films exclusively. Her life is complicated by the fact that her parents are divorcing and her mother is falling apart while her father has moved across the river. Her best friend has moved away and Austin, son of the local theatre owner, spends his time annoying her or so she thinks. Dani is struggling with her parents' divorce and when she discovers that Jackson, Austin's older cousin, is being visited by a mysterious femme fatale, she finds herself in her own film noir. To unravel the mystery of this girl with the polka dot tights, Dani uses the detective skills she learned from watching these films.
The best way I would describe this book is cozy. I knew what was going to happen just from the first chapter, but I still enjoyed the book. The book is a mystery/noir and a coming of age story. I liked the combination of the two genres and thought the author did an excellent job of using the medium of film to illustrate the divorce between Dani's parents and the turmoil she is experiencing. Dani's favorite actress at the beginning is Rita Hayworth and this shifts at the end of the novel, which is a nice way to show the changes in her life.
The most interesting thing about the novel were the characters. Dani is not a perfect person, but she grows throughout the story. She is bratty, intelligent, selfish, curious and even caring at some points. At the beginning, she is selfish and while she doesn't completely outgrow this at the end, she has begun to realize that she has flaws, and that her parents, friends and acquaintances are flawed and complex as well. My favorite realization that Dani has is when she realizes that Austin has a crush on her and Taylor, her former best friend, has also changed and maybe their friendship can be rekindled. I also loved the character of Austin and while Dani found him annoying at first, his friendship with her was very sweet.
As this is Nova Ren Suma's debut, I thought she did an excellent job at making complex characters and I already have her second book on my to-read list. ...more
I had really been looking forward to reading this book. I have read nothing but good reviews and the premise of the book sounded compelling. Plus I he I had really been looking forward to reading this book. I have read nothing but good reviews and the premise of the book sounded compelling. Plus I heard the book compared to The Hunger Games, which should have made me wary, but actually made me want to read it more. I need to learn to ignore the hype. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in the book.
Beatrice lives in a "dystopian" Chicago and is a member of one of five factions, Abnegation (selflessness). There was a great war and after the war, the citizens of Chicago decided to split into five factions. The factions based on a trait that the members deemed important for humanity. So there is one for bravery, one for peace, one for selflessness, one for intelligence and lastly one for honesty. Beatrice finds herself to be Divergent, after she undergoes the "sorting" test, which means she shows traits for more than one faction. She chooses to be in Dauntless, however. Ok, so I was intrigued! This seemed like an interesting dystopia and I wondered what Roth would do with it.
Unfortunately, the world building was not very strong. I was first very frustrated by the portrayal of the different factions. They were so horribly stereotypical, especially Dauntless (bravery). Wearing black? Tattoos? Piercings? Guns? Jumping out of trains? Jumping off buildings? UGH! These do not make someone brave! The Dauntless seemed more interested in being cruel and tough rather than being brave. I realized that Roth was trying to make some sort of point, but it still frustrated me nonetheless. Oh and the Abnegation only wearing grey? UGH to that, too! I was happy when Four/Tobias finally made the connection between being selfless and being brave. More connections could have been made in the beginning between the utopian idea of having 5 factions and the dystopian reality. I figured out the dystopia before Beatrice was able to and her lack of any awareness until the end was frustrating. As she supposedly is Erudite (intelligence) as well, that seemed like something she could have picked up on sooner.
I also find it very hard to believe that any group of people would collectively decide to divide in factions NOT based on family ties. This was the hardest part of the world for me to believe. NO WAY would (most) people agree to abandon their families for living in these factions. Also, it was hinted at that something lay beyond the walls, and I wanted to know more about the world.
As for the characters and plot, the world building frustrated me so much that I could barely get through the book and the plot felt a little thin to me. I wasn't very engaged by the book until Beatrice figured out that her mother had been in Dauntless. The latter half of the book was better with Tris making connections between the reality versus the ideal of the factions. I felt frustrated that this connection wasn't made until later. Maybe it was a device to show how Tris grows through the book and starts to question her world, but it didn't really seem that way to me. I also felt some of the side characters like Peter and Eric were cruel with no explanation on how they came to be so cruel. Maybe jealousy? Jeannine on the other hand, while she was one of the main villains, had reasons behind her cruelty. I did appreciate that Roth is not afraid to kill off characters, however. I was a little surprised, but it is a crapsack world where anyone can die.
As for the romance, I'm tired of girl falling for mysterious boy with a troubled past. Oh and he was also conveniently Divergent, too. Luckily the romance didn't take over the book, but still, I'm of the opinion that there doesn't need to be a romance.
Overall, I would give the book 1 stars, maybe 2ish, because I do want to read the next one, to find out what happens....more
This book revolves around Rory (Aurora) a teen from Louisiana. Her family moves to England, where Rory decides to attend boarding school in London, atThis book revolves around Rory (Aurora) a teen from Louisiana. Her family moves to England, where Rory decides to attend boarding school in London, at Wexford, a school in East London. While she is attending school there and adjusting to English/London life, a Jack the Ripper copycat begins killing on the same dates as the Ripper and leaving the bodies in the same locations. Rory begins seeing a mysterious man that no one else can seem to see, and finds out that she may be the Ripper's next victim.
This book really lived up to my expectations, especially after the disappointment of my last book. It had a nice blend of a mystery/thriller, some history and also a contemporary YA. The book is almost two genres in one. It starts out as a YA contemporary with a little romance and then morphs into a historical mystery/paranormal/thriller. I was expecting the paranormal from the blurb on the book jacket, so this didn't come out of the blue and surprise me. Rory also realistically dealt with the shock of realizing that she could see ghosts. Johnson had a nice balance between YA contemporary and thriller/mystery at the end.
One thing about the book that I loved was that the romance was not overdone. And it wasn't a love triangle! I have become very tired of books where the main character's life is in danger, but she cares more about what her love interest is doing or thinking and kissing her love interest. The hint of romance was nice, and I am so grateful that it didn't overpower the story, because honestly, I was reading this book for the serial killer madness, not romance.
There was a little info dumping, especially in regards to the history of Jack the Ripper, but it was done in snippets of newscasts, and in the character of Jerome, the main love interest of Rory. However, I thought his infodumping was fairly realistic, because I know I have a similar personality, and I have an interest in Jack the Ripper, as well. I also probably info dump about topics I'm interested in, like Jerome.
As for the other characters, they were all well developed, and I especially enjoyed that Johnson, in a nod to modern English culture, features an English/Indian character, Bhuvana, or Boo, as she likes to be called. I thought Jazza was a nice counterpoint to both Rory and Boo, but she wasn't a caricature. And I also liked Alistair, and the little twist with his story. I am excited about the ghost police and the dynamics of the group and their mission, especially in regards to the next book.
I thought the cover was misleading. The girl on the cover is definitely not Rory and the shadowy "Ripper" behind her harkens back to the original Ripper, but doesn't really pertain to this particular novel. I assume that the girl is possibly one of the victims, but I feel like the cover doesn't accurately reflect what is actually in the novel.
While I think Johnson did do a good job of making this a standalone novel, she did set it up at the very end for a sequel, and I can't wait for it! She has left me wanting more, with that little twist at the end and I'm interested to see how the next book will play out.
Overall, I give this book 5 stars. I really loved it....more