[Posted on futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.]
Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin features two mythical object[Posted on futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.]
Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin features two mythical objects and tells of the lengths a secret society will go to in order to seize ownership of them.
Amateur diver Erik Hall finds one of the artifacts in a abandoned mine shaft. Lost for a century, the ankh has resurfaced and immediately draws the attention of the shady organization that has been looking for it. Erik quickly falls victim to those who seek the ankh. Thrown into the mix is Don Titelman, an unlikely hero who spends most of his days in a drug-induced haze. Together with his would-be lawyer, he flees Sweden to get to the bottom of the mystery of these objects that now plague him.
The novel moves between characters quite a bit. In part one, we visit Erik, Don, an intern, a photographer, and a few others. It is all written well enough for the reader to be able to hold them separately and not get confused, though. This character shuffling tones down a bit in parts two and three and the novel is the better for it. Don is perhaps the most well drawn character. His confusion and curiosity come through nicely. Everyone else seems to play a bit part, even Eva. She features in a greater part of the story, and yet it’s hard to feel very close to her.
This book also incorporates a lot of historical events into the story, showing the muddled past through a focused lense. It adds a new layer of meaning to the atrocities of the past, from the trenches of World War One to the concentration camps of World War Two. The novel is very well researched. All the events mesh seamlessly and real as the actual events.
Overall, this book was quite a ride. Well paced, it grabbed my interest from the start and held on. Much like Don, I needed to see the mystery through to the end. And the end of this novel is indeed very satisfying....more
I wanted to read The Uninvited Guests from the moment I heard about the book. Imagine my joy, then, when I won an[Originally posted on Futuresfading.]
I wanted to read The Uninvited Guests from the moment I heard about the book. Imagine my joy, then, when I won an advance reader copy on Goodreads!
Sadie Jones’ The Uninvited Guests introduces us to the eccentric, dysfunctional Torrington-Swift family. There is the self-centered Charlotte Torrington-Swift, her doting second husband Edward Swift, and the three children of her previous marriage: Clovis, Emerald, and Imogen (aka Smudge). They live at Stern, a stately manor in the English countryside, but financial issues could mean them losing it. Edward is off to secure funds to save the home while those left behind celebrate Emeralds twentieth birthday. Then, disaster. A train accident sends some restless uninvited guests their way, including one Charles Traversham-Beechers. He claims to know of Charlotte's past, and he may just be wicked enough to reveal it.
Of all the characters, the most likeable may be Emerald, the capable yet resigned-to-her-fate birthday girl, followed closely by her odd and neglected sister Smudge. Clovis is quite the snob, and Charlotte an absent and vain mother. We also meet the Swift-Torrington housekeepers Myrtle and Florence, and the guests invited to Emeralds soiree: John Buchanan, Ernest and Patience Sutton, and, of course, Charles Traversham-Beechers. They range from the bland to the vicious, though some change their tune by the books end.
The story itself is very entertaining and well written. Told in third-persons, the narration is funny, witty, and just a bit quirky. I found myself laughing on quite a few occassions. Many that books that claim to be humorous satire rarely hit their mark for me, but this book had its true laugh-out-loud moments. Though a satire, a comedy of manners, the bigger message of the novel is not lost. We see the worst brought out in these society folk, both in how they treat each other and how they treat those they believe are beneath them. But we also see them grow and learn. Some, as I’ve mentioned, mature greatly through the novel and are changed for the better by the experience.
This book is clever, funny, and thoroughly entertaining. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys satirical novels, and anyone who wants a good look at human nature at its best and worst. Or just anyone looking for a wildly adventurous and truly bizarre tale....more
Berlin, 1936. The Olympics are underway and all eyes are on Hitler’s Germany. The Nazi propaganda machine has hidden its brutality from view, but therBerlin, 1936. The Olympics are underway and all eyes are on Hitler’s Germany. The Nazi propaganda machine has hidden its brutality from view, but there are those who still recognise the veiled terror. Eleanor Emerson, expelled from the US swim team, meets up with Richard Denham, a British journalist. Together, they learn that Berlin is center stage for more than just the Olympics. They find themselves in the middle of a very different kind of game, this one between the Gestapo and The British Secret Intelligence Service. There is a secret document that threatens to bring down the Third Reich, and Hitler's men want to get it before it is handed over to the SIS... by any means necessary.
Eleanor is a feisty young woman with a rebellious streak. Being quite the socialite, she gets herself kicked off the Olympic team en route to Berlin for partying a bit too hard. Her lines are fantastic and full of wit. She is a strong, likeable character. The same can be said for Denham, the cynical journalist determined to report the truth. He, too, is very well drawn. We get a great sense of how he values both his profession and his fellow man. All of the good guys stand out in their own way, in fact. For that bad guys, though, I was more likely to get them confused. They get a bit muddled, but I got them straightened out in the end.
The historical backdrop is phenomenal! So many real people and events are wonderfully woven into the story. The Olympics is the obvious, but the Hindenburg is also written in. Even the Wallis Simpson scandal gets a mention. Berlin itself comes to life. It’s easy to imagine what things were like back then, with the city being cleaned up to show a “nice” face to the world.
My main criticism, and the thing that really knocked the rating down a star, is the ending. I saw it coming pretty early on and spent the rest of the book hoping I was wrong. It’s just pretty predictable and...safe. It wraps the story up neatly and reconciles the book with actual events, but after such an exciting story I found myself wanting something radically different. Something that rewrote history entirely. Still, Flight From Berlin is a well written historical thriller. A must-read for anyone interested in this time in history, and great for fans of thrillers as well!
[Full Disclosure: I won this book through Goodreads First Reads.]...more
Originally posted on futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.
The Glimpse, by Claire Merle, is a dystopian young aduOriginally posted on futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.
The Glimpse, by Claire Merle, is a dystopian young adult novel in which society is divided and controlled by its government. The method of their subjugation? Mental health as determined by a DNA test. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. And Merle knows that. She has created a post-collapse world where the people are struggling for order, willing to put their trust in anyone with an answer. Que the Pure test. It claims to detect mental illness, and weeding these “defective” people out seems to improve society... at least for a privileged few, the Pure. And so, people buy into the big lie. I found the use of mental illness effective, and not at all offensive. It’s acknowledged pretty early in the novel that the test is a sham, that the ability to test for mental illness in DNA isn’t possible. The segregation of the people, ruling them with fear, is the real reason for the tests.
Ana, the protagonist, has her Pure status revoked when a certain anomaly comes to light. Now her future is in the hands of Jasper. She needs to bind with him or she’ll be cast out among the Crazies. Having been raised in a Pure community, she believes what she has been taught of them: they are violent, aggressive, unpredictable. When Jasper goes missing, Ana is determined to find him, to solve the mystery of his abduction. Out in the real world, far from the safety of her community, Ana learns the truth of the Pures and the Crazies, of the tests and the treatments her government issues. Her world is thoroughly rocked, and she will never be the same. Ana is a strong character. She rises to the challenges thrown at her. She has doubts and fears, but she does her best and uses her head.
At times, though, the highly improbable happens. This is a work of fiction, sure, but suspension of disbelief can only go so far. She played a lawyer and won based only on some reading she did? Really? With just a haircut and a pair of contacts, she went completely unrecognised? Ugh. No. Another problem for me: the instant-love. Ana meets Cole. Sparks fly. They love one another. Forever. Um, bite me. That sounds like a crush, like lust. The word “love” is used, though... am I to believe thats what it is? If that is love, then it is of the shallow variety. That magical Disney love that takes no time at all to manifest itself. It’s a fairy tale wedged into a dystopian novel, and it drags down the quality of the story for me.
Last major bone of contention for me: the glimpse itself. From what I gather of this ill-explained phenomenon, the glimpse is a look into the future that only certain people get. This entire concept seems so completely random to me! Why throw this little paranormal tidbit into the book? Nothing else in this novels world-building hints at anything psychic or supernatural, so why is it included? It seems to me that the only purpose for it is to push Cole and Ana towards one another. An attempt to make that little fairy-tale-love seem more believable, more real. It falls completely flat, though.
Despite these flaws, I’d still say The Glimpse is well written and engaging. Merle is clearly talented. The actual flow of the story was smooth; Ana, well drawn. As a dystopian novel, though, this isn’t one of the strongest I’ve read. If you like YA sci-fi in general, especially those with a strong element of romance, then The Glimpse may be right up your alley. ...more
The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos, is the story of a family living through the Greek military junta of 1967-19Originally posted on futuresfading.
The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos, is the story of a family living through the Greek military junta of 1967-1974. While most of the country sleeps, Greece suddenly changes. A group of colonels stage a coup d’etat and seize control of government. Eleni and Mihalis, Anna and Sophie, now live in a very different world.
At the start of this novel, it seems to me that Mihalis, a poet and past revolutionary, struggles with how to react. A part of him wants to act out against the dictators, while the rest of him is tired and justs want to reconcile with his wife. He recognizes the need for action, but feels he has done his part in the past. His niece, Sophie, is radical and ready. She believes in the cause but wants dearly to impress her uncle and boyfriend. The resistance seems to be a stage for her, and a movement only second. Sophie’s sister Anna is a shy, withdrawn, and sullen child. As a third child, she feels herself lacking in identity and importance. Eleni, Sophie and Anna’s mother, has a family and despite her past with politics, must put them first. Widowed, she has lost control of her children and has to reconcile what they want with what she expects.
This is very much a character driven novel. There is a semblance of a plot, sure, but it’s certainly not the feature. The political turmoil is a mostly a backdrop in the family drama, only occasionally propelling them forward. Each person's mindset and emotions are explored. Their past, their fears, their desires. We learn so much about these four main characters that is impossible to not relate to them, to not identify with them in some way. They want what we all want: to be rid of oppression, to love freely, to be happy. We all want to leave behind the best world possible for future generations.
Each character also experiences tremendous growth. The dormant are pulled into action, the overzealous lulled into more subdued protest. Mihalis and Eleni move from what they seem to have accepted to what they know is right. Sophie grows from her days as a kid playing at politics. Anna is, perhaps, the most transformed. She sheds her childish cloak of insecurities and becomes an empowered young woman.
Greece, as a backdrop, is wonderfully described. From Athens, to the islands; the shared home in Halandri, to the secret places the characters keep to themselves. The reader can feel like they are moving alongside each character. We are lounging with Mihalis in Kifissia, traveling with Anna to Hydra. And, as we escape with Sophie, Paris springs to life.
Don’t go into this novel expecting a fast paced, action packed plot. This isn’t that kind of book. It is for those seeking a story to connect with, something to contemplate. It is beautifully written, riddled with standout passages. I’d quote from it, but I have an advance reader copy won through Goodreads....more
[Originally posted on Futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.]
Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers, is the s[Originally posted on Futuresfading. This review is of an advance reader copy won from Goodreads.]
Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers, is the story of a young orphan named Laure Beausejour as she is exiled to the new world.
Taken from her parents as a child, Laure was sent to Paris’ Salpêtrière, where women deemed unfit for society were placed. Laure got a brief glimpse of wealth and family while working as a servant, but when her madame passes, she must go back to the wretched conditions at the hospital. In addition the the plight of rats, the people there are severely underfed. Infants are fed a watery milk concoction and most don’t survive. One young woman, whom Laure initially despised, passes away from scurvy. Laure attempts to get a letter to the king asking for improved conditions, but the hospital’s Superior finds out. A spiteful woman, she sends Laure to Canada, still a wild country, as punishment. Once there, Laure must struggle through loss, marriage, and surviving in this new land.
Laure is neither very likeable nor relatable. She initially seems bitter and jealous. Mireille, another girl at the Salpêtrière, evokes her envy. When Mireille dies, she seems to change a bit, but is still very selfish. She encourages her best friend, Madeline, to accompany her to the new world knowing fully well how dangerous this might be. Once in Canada, she endangers Madeline once more, all so she won't have to be alone. To her credit, Laure seems a bit more headstrong than other women sent to Canada. Perhaps she has even grown by the end of the book.
This novel is written in the third-person–present-tense, and I don’t think it really works. It felt a bit impersonal and alienating. At times, it seemed more like a clinical look than an intimate portrait. This story relies so much on a central character that this non-connection leaves the novel feeling flat and lacking in emotion.
Still, this was certainly an interesting look at how the poor of Old France were treated. How the women exiled to the New France had to make do with what they had and simply try to survive. Those interested in this time in history, as well as women's struggles, may find this book enjoyable. It is certainly very illuminating, I just wish it felt more personal....more
Two weeks before December 21, 2012, a man speaking a strange language is brought into East L.A. Presbyterian Hospital with what appears to be a prionTwo weeks before December 21, 2012, a man speaking a strange language is brought into East L.A. Presbyterian Hospital with what appears to be a prion disease. Dr. Gabriel Stanton, a prion disease researcher for the CDC, is called in. When it is realised that the patient is speaking a Mayan language, Chel Manu, an expert in Mayan Studies, aides as a translator. She is rocked by what she learns from this patient, though. Chel has recently acquired an incredible artifact from a shady source: a previously undiscovered Mayan codex, dating back farther than any other. What could this man have to do with the artifact? How does his terrifying disease factor in?
If you haven’t already heard, December 21, 2012, marks the beginning of the end of the world. Well, at least to those who misinterpret the Mayan long count calendar, anyway. This 2012 doomsday phenomenon has completely taken over. It’s everywhere, and as December 21st approaches, I imagine things will reach a fever pitch. 12.21, then, is a very timely novel. But if you’re thinking this novel bends actual Mayan fact to fits its plot, think again. Instantly, Thomason shows that he has done his homework. A simple change of the calendar isn’t what’s bringing on the end in this one. In fact, the novel’s fictional terror feels entirely to possible. Prions are well explained, also. And so is the meatpacking industry. Made me glad to be a vegetarian (well... not counting that salmon I had for dinner... I’ll stop eating fish really soon, I swear!).
Stanton is your classic workaholic. He has an ex-wife to prove it. Chel is quite dedicated to her work as well. She is passionate about her Mayan heritage. Both are driven people and very easy to like. The two are really good together. Here is a relationship thats takes some time to grow. The trust is not instant. As they work toward a common goal, they learn to rely on one another’s expertise and judgement. The character development is great in this one.
Also instantly likeable is Paktul and his ancient codex. As Chel and her team translate his secret writings, the reader gets a glimpse into the world of the ancient Mayans. His telling of events is lively and engaging. I found myself looking forward to his story, wondering what happened to cause it all. You see, what Paktul describes holds both the clues to great past of the Mayans and the terrible fate that may await the modern world.
12.21 is filled with plot twists, and it’s interesting to see how things eventually connect and fall into place. The writing is writing is solid as well. This book is definitely a page turner. I’d recommend it to anyone, doomsdayer or otherwise....more
With such an intriguing title, there was no way I could pass up entering the Goodreads giveaway. And I’m so glad I won!
This is a women’s health book,With such an intriguing title, there was no way I could pass up entering the Goodreads giveaway. And I’m so glad I won!
This is a women’s health book, loaded with information about the fairer sex. It’s in a Q&A format, with each question being answered in great detail. There are ten chapters total, nine are themed and the last one is of miscellaneous questions. Following this is the appendix, source citations, and resources for further reading. There are also “Them and Us” segments scattered throughout that more closely compare men and women.
Instantly, you can see that this book is incredibly well researched. The author backs up each answer with studies and the prevailing theories. But this doesn’t mean the book is boring. It certainly doesn’t read like a textbook. Barnes-Svarney make the information interesting and easy to understand. Also, she’s funny. There are jokes and funny remarks throughout that make the book more enjoyable.
As for the questions themselves, they are very interesting. Some are things people often wonder about. Others, people just assume they know the answer already. But what we think we know by way of wives tales are dismissed, replaced by facts. Even if you know the general answer to a question already, as was the case for me with some, there is still more to learn because of the depth of the answers. Plus, it nice to be able to give sources when someone says “prove it” to you.
Overall, this book is well written and makes learning about health fun. It is both informative and insightful. I’d recommend it to any woman interested in learning more about how her mind and body works. I’d even recommend it to men who want to understand the opposite sex better....more
Kate Williams’ The Pleasures of Men is a strange little book telling the strange tale of a strange protagonist and her strange thoughts. Can you guessKate Williams’ The Pleasures of Men is a strange little book telling the strange tale of a strange protagonist and her strange thoughts. Can you guess what I’d call this book in a word? Strange.
Catherine is a troubled young woman living with her uncle in London. She undergoes some trauma as a child, and is now largely isolated. Rarely leaving the house, her imagination is her main company. When a serial killer begins murdering young women, Catherine tries to get inside his mind. She believes she can understand him. Catherine goes to the places where he has killed, the dirty streets where he roams. She imagines his past in vivid detail. She discovers, however, that things are not as they seem—that truth is a lot closer to home.
This books is well written and clearly well researched. This descriptions of London are vivid, the poverty is palpable. Still, it took awhile for me to get into it. The story starts off quite slowly. With shifting narratives in the beginning, it's difficult to parse out who is actually speaking: is it another person, or Catherine's imagination? Things becomes more clear in time, but at the start it’s a bit off-putting. At some point, however, the novel managed to snag my interest. I wanted to find out what Catherine's childhood trauma was, as well as the identity and motivations of the Man of Crows.
Bits of the plot can feel a bit contrived, though, and the biggest flaw is that it feels lacking in an apparent coherence. Still, the book overall is very dark and beautifully imagined. Anyone interested in Victorian England may enjoy this gothic thriller.
[Disclosure: I recieverd this book through a Shelf Awareness giveaway.]...more
Just because we can’t see them does not mean that they don’t exist. Imaginary friends are, in fact, real. Their human fr[Also posted on Futuresfading]
Just because we can’t see them does not mean that they don’t exist. Imaginary friends are, in fact, real. Their human friend thinks them up, but then they have their own thoughts and emotions and ideas. They need their friends to imagine them into existence and believe in them to stay alive, sure. But this is just a form of life support, not proof that they’re fake!
Budo, he’s one of the oldest imaginary friends around. Max imagined him into existence, and has believed in him for over five years. Max is a bit different, possibly autistic (it’s never explicitly stated), and has quite the imagination. He imagined Budo being both smart and very human-looking. That, coupled with his age, makes Budo the envy of other imaginary friends. But all is not well for Budo: he worries a lot. Max is bullied in school, and Budo worries for his safety. Max’s parents’ arguments are mostly about Max, too. Budo worries about his friends disappearing as their human imagineers stop believing in them. Mostly,though, Budo is preoccupied with thoughts of his own death. He want to exist for as long as possible, to never disappear. And then, another worry: Max falls into a new and terrible danger. Only Budo knows the truth, and he must save his friend.
This novel is simply wonderful. It’s like a kids adventure story, but made especially for adults. Budo sees the world in a unique way, and he shows us his world the best he can. He is wise but still very childlike, and is the perfect narrator for this tale. This very real imaginary friend takes the reader on a ride and manages to connect on an emotional level. He feels as we humans do, and not only does he learn as he goes along, he grows as well.
With its interesting premise and fast pace, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is a most unlikely coming of age story. For adults looking to indulge their inner child, this book is highly recommended.
[Full Disclosure: I received an advance reader copy via Shelf Awareness]...more