Clever use of mythology, though the plot itself is fairly generic for the YA market. An interesting idea, and the Maori lore is truly the highpoint ofClever use of mythology, though the plot itself is fairly generic for the YA market. An interesting idea, and the Maori lore is truly the highpoint of the entire novel....more
Confusing, weird and descriptive, I really have no idea what to make of this book. I'll have to ruminate on it before figuring out how to2.5 out of 5
Confusing, weird and descriptive, I really have no idea what to make of this book. I'll have to ruminate on it before figuring out how to word my review, how to describe the sheer oddness contained in this debut novel....more
A long, complex, convoluted story with broad themes, nuanced characters amidst a pseudo-Tang dynasty. Guy Gavriel Kay tackles a tumultuous and interesA long, complex, convoluted story with broad themes, nuanced characters amidst a pseudo-Tang dynasty. Guy Gavriel Kay tackles a tumultuous and interesting time to fictionalize in Under Heaven, and he does it well. ...more
This was fun, if not exactly an original entry into the fantasy genre. The dialogue and exposition could be clumsy and overdone at times t2.5 out of 5
This was fun, if not exactly an original entry into the fantasy genre. The dialogue and exposition could be clumsy and overdone at times throughout, but still, the world of Mytica is vividly rendered. The characters were a bit flat for me on the whole, but I did like enough of them, or were intrigued by a few of them, enough to continue.
There are admittedly some very interesting ideas and characters at play here; they are just not given the time or exposure toA very strong 3.5 stars.
There are admittedly some very interesting ideas and characters at play here; they are just not given the time or exposure to evolve into something truly great. This is a novella that could work even better expanded into a real, full-length novel. As it is, it's a bit to short to really go into any kind of depth, but it has the trademark Sanderson creativity and ingenuity in spades....more
I am so disappointed. I had such a good streak going. Three, nearly four, months and eighty books intoRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I am so disappointed. I had such a good streak going. Three, nearly four, months and eighty books into 2013, I'd only had one 1-star read before this. I started Taken with high hopes - that cover! that synopsis! - that quickly, and I mean QUICKLY, plummeted from "this is going to be good!" to "Oh, no..." to "To DNF or to not DNF?" to "I just want this to be over." Thankfully, my pain was rather short lived this time. Taken is three hundred odd pages, but there's so little depth to the world or the characters that it's a thankfully fast-moving read. In the end, I have to recognize that this was just a book that was not meant for me and abandon the series.
I knew thirteen pages into Taken that this was going to be a rocky road. My main and first issue was with the main character and narrator, Gray Weathersby. Erin Bowman can write an authentic male voice, but she utterly failed to create a likeable, or even interesting, one. Gray is a jerk, and Gray is rather short-sighted. He was awful, and he was where the cracks started to show. If you can get around Gray's 'tude, you will find Taken a more fun read than I did. I can see my way to loving some awful characters, anti-heroes (Jaime Lannister, anyone? I adore him. Don't judge me.) and even villains (Sepp dan Teufel is my favorite character from The Blade Itself trilogy, and he is a horrid, broken man). But they, unlike Gray, manage to be interesting, complex in their moral failings and errors. They are more than the worse of them. Alternatively, Gray is just a brat. With lifelong insecurity issues.
The other characters don't do much to take the heat and focus off of Gray's long list of shortcomings. Everyone in the book is so one-dimensional and flat. Emma, the *first* love interest, flipflops from one side of an idea to the other in pages. Her affection does the same, and her characterization is pretty much null. Blaine, the brother, is a Larry Stu, and thus practically perfect. There's no complexity or intricacy to the characters or their relationships with one another. It's alllll surface. I need more, and the book needs more - I need depth and real characterization to care about what's going on to the characters. Otherwise, I get bored and start counting down the pages til: a. everyone dies or b. the book ends.
I kept running into issues with the plot and the progression of the story as it went along. There are too many tropes (instalove! Love triangles!), cliches, and conveniences to be found in Taken. It's just too much to be believable. I have a great suspension of disbelief, but after a point, I just... can't. Gray's entire motivation and actions are too easy, and almost of the twists and conflicts he runs into end quickly, usually in a deux-ex-machina kind of way. The plotholes in the story also started to add up as more and more is revealed about the world Gray exists within. All of that adds up to more than I can buy into. And if I can't identify or relate or even care about the characters, if the plot falls apart with closer examination, and if it's a passionless, easy affair, I'm out.
Taken is a great idea that falters out of the gate with its muddled execution. The long and short of it is that a good, original and mysterious concept is not enough to carry a novel, especially one that's hundreds of pages. The novelty and curiously wear thin, and then out completely. The series will continue with books two and three, but I will not be reading to see how it all plays out. ...more
Decent, if not the most logical book I've ever read. Stalls a bit in the midsection, but concludes with a solid finale. I am kinda "ehhhh" about thisDecent, if not the most logical book I've ever read. Stalls a bit in the midsection, but concludes with a solid finale. I am kinda "ehhhh" about this novel - I will have to think on it a few days before I render a final verdict and review....more
I love when books can surprise you. I had a general idea of what to expect with Karen Thompson Walker'sRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I love when books can surprise you. I had a general idea of what to expect with Karen Thompson Walker's meandering, character and thought-driven novel about the end of the world, but I had no idea how bittersweetly she could spin this science fiction-adjacent tale of change, hope, young love, and death. I somehow assumed that this thoughtful exploration of the Earth's "slowing" would be a young-adult effort, but though protagonist and narrator Julia is a preteen, The Age of Miracles should not be confused for a simple young-adult story; don't be deceived as I was. Karen Thompson Walker proves herself more than adept at crafting a unique, easily-envisaged scenario in which for her characters to live or die here, and it is contemplatively engaging from the get-go. Though this is a debut author, there is clearly a lot of talent at play within this new author's fertile and expansive imagination — this is one novelist whom I will be sure to watch in the future.
I was struck by the author's writing within pages. Simple and spare, Walker and Julia are gifted with an easy but strong voice, alive with imagery. Walker has a gift for striking descriptions and a unique way with words, one easily lent to creating atmosphere and tension within the novel (from the ARC, page 8: "We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.") Her style fits this loosely apocalyptic story; the focus is not on the extreme events that happen as a result of the slowing (like "solar superstorms" or "gravity sickness"), nor in finding/explaining the cause for the change, but rather on the effects of the aforementioned on Julia and her family. As the world and the things taken for granted fluctuate and stretch, so too do the inner lives and previously unassailable facts of life for Julia, her father and mother.
Julia grows up, and into her role as narrator, quite fast in a world where "dark days" and "white nights" are the norm, and her character is neither stunted nor fully-dimensional. Hampered, perhaps, by the very short length of this novel (only 212 pages in ARC form), I never quite connected to Julia. I was curious about whether the cards would fall as I predicted, but I never fully invested in her as character. Like the particularly apt reference to the Gary Paulsen novel Hatchet and akin to its protagonist Brian, young Julia finds her way alone in an unfamiliar, and hostile world. I rooted for her in her suburban catastrophes; I just didn't love her. All the characters, from dad Joel to hippie Sylvia, feel sketched-out, rather than fully drawn and realized. Despite this, I was fully involved in the story unfolding throughout The Age of Miracles - the steady stream of new revelations, the twists and turns of the more mundane plotlines and above all, Thompson Walker's inimitable prose, kept my attention firmly affixed to the page.
Though quite short and not completely perfect, The Age of Miracles is a bittersweet and worthy addition to the science fiction/apocalyptic genre. Karen Thompson Walker's foray into writing is largely a success on many counts - it is original and compelling and distinctly written. It is, I hope, a pleasant harbinger of more to come from the debut novelist. I will definitely be tuning in as well as going forth and recommending this book for those seeking a slower-paced, more introspective take on the end of the world.
I have to sit on this one for a bit, but one thing is clear: I do wish the characters, all of them, had been more individually defined. T3.75 out of 5
I have to sit on this one for a bit, but one thing is clear: I do wish the characters, all of them, had been more individually defined. The science at the heart of the novel is sound and detailed, but I was never wholly invested in The Testament of Jessie Lamb.
I just couldn't. Too simple for me to immerse myself (though the brother has some awful/awesome Peter Wiggin-type tendencies and ideas)- some will enjI just couldn't. Too simple for me to immerse myself (though the brother has some awful/awesome Peter Wiggin-type tendencies and ideas)- some will enjoy, but this wasn't for me. I could predict where some plotlines were headed as soon as the book got going, and the main plot did little to compel any further reading.
Splendors and Glooms is a hard beast for me to categorize upon finishing; it's labelled most commonly as middle grade, and while so3.75 out of 5 stars
Splendors and Glooms is a hard beast for me to categorize upon finishing; it's labelled most commonly as middle grade, and while some elements certainly come across that way, others are far more mature and advanced than usually seen for that genre. It's a dark, detailed and very Gothic tale of two orphans at the whims of two very unpleasant and unscrupulous people. For all that Splendors and Glooms talks a big game and my initial enjoyment (and apprehension! Kids trapped in dolls - freaaaky), I was mildly let down by several stretches in this 400 page book; after the kids flee London there is an extended lull in the pacing and events (read: not a lot happens for 75-100 pages or so)of the book; and for a final conflict with a mad witch, an evil magician/puppeteer and three smart, creative kids, the finale of this came off as far too easy and simple. It lacked excitement or suspense when it should have been most riveting.
I enjoyed this, but it wasn't the great experience I'd hoped for. Splendors and Glooms was good - fun, with a few unseen twists to keep me intrigued as the serviceable prose and likeable, if not wholly developed, characters meandered their way through the plot.
Beautiful Lies is one of those mysteries with a great premise: twins, a special bond, an abduction, and an unreliable narrator to spin the whole tale, making both the readers and the characters unsure of what exactly is going on. Certain segments in this novel were executed in a deliciously creeeeepy and uncertain manner, and while other areas lacked that atmosphere and level of execution, overall, this is a pretty good read, and a well-written mystery. There are several twists, surprises that I did not see coming -- a fact that is all to rare when I venture into the YA mystery/thriller genre and is greatly appreciated when it does manage to happen. I was occasionally confused by the shifts, changes in the direction of the story, but the author always managed to reel me right back in. Jessica Warman impressed me for the majority of this longish novel, and I will be on the lookout for her other books.
This is far more of a character-driven novel, though the plot holds its own for the most part. Thankfully for a less than actiontastic novel, the characters of Beautiful Lies are usually the best part of it, specifically the two protagonists of Rachel and Alice. For a novel that stalls in momentum occasionally, these two characters often pick up the slack and keep the reader engaged and curious about their uncertain fate. I wouldn't say I was completely invested in these characters the way I am with other protagonists (like Sophie Quinn from If I Lie, etc.) but they are dynamic, and interesting in their connection and possible mental issues. Rachel and Alice's unique/psychic affinity for one another, their rare condition --monochorionic monoamniotic twins -- help to add up to create two very similar, but different and dynamic characters as well as an original storyline. Identity and the self are two very big themes within Beautiful Lies, and the author explores these ideas with her two almost codependent main characters. As Warman repeatedly shows through the changing nature of the twins' relationship, Rachel and Alice learn that you can be extremely close to someone else and still not really know them completely.
I had a few issues with the pacing in the novel, most notably as the mystery wore on and red herrings kept popping up. This clocks in at about 420 pages in the final edition, and while the majority of the narrative kept the tension high and the atmosphere on point, several sections lacked the pull of others. A little editing/excising would do well to make the entire novel as riveting as the first two seventy-five and the last fifty pages are. (The whole sidestory of the cats? Felt especially random and ill-suited for the rest of the novel.) Though the final antagonist became clearer to me the more I read, I really appreciated how much work the author put into occluding who was behind Rachel's disappearance and Alice's phantom injuries. The twins identity switcheroo, the MacGuffin of the "$10,000", the unreliable narrator, the new uncovered secrets and deceptions -- all were deftly handled to make the mystery harder to solve. Far too many novels telegraph twists and the big bad too early on -- and this is NOT one of them. I may have figured it all out before the big reveal and Alice herself, but it wasn't until the late 300's that I did.
My last note is on the ending: for such a longwinded and twisty novel, I found the end to be rushed and slightly anticlimactic. The antagonist gives himself away quite easily to Alice, and I was pretty surpised the author gave it up that quickly in the final pages. The clues add up and are figured out so slowly, and then it seems like the book enters a headlong rush just to get to the end. With so much time and prose spent executing the set-up and rising action, the lack of real resolution, and that with more than a few unanswered loose ends (like.... how is it that Rachel survived? Why didn't the killer just off the cop so he'd have more time with the twins and to getaway?), felt like a misstep to me. Like I said earlier, this wasn't a perfect read, and outside of the pacing issues, those dangling questions are a large majority of the reason why I can't rate this higher than a 3.75/5.
I really liked Beautiful Lies, though it wasn't a perfect read for me. The author impressed me with her skill, her storytelling, the mystery, and her ability to craft well-rounded characters. If you're looking for a well-done, character-driven mystery with a genuine air of creepiness, look no further than here. I am becoming a large fan of the unreliable narrator for novels -- as long as it is handled as easily and smartly as it is here. I have to note that the cover is absolutely perfect -- like the cover of What's Left of Me -- the hint of a second person in the negative space fits in with the novel and with the twins' life of mobile identity. ...more
That was.... pretty good. Not without some pacing and plot issues but still an entertaining and interesting novel with a Romeo and Juliet retelling, mThat was.... pretty good. Not without some pacing and plot issues but still an entertaining and interesting novel with a Romeo and Juliet retelling, mixed with magic and technology and dystopia elements. Some aspects could use tightening but overall, I had fun with Mystic City.