Like many Dick novels the world of this book is insane, difficult to explain, and yet fun to visit and thought-provoking.
The world Dick has imagined iLike many Dick novels the world of this book is insane, difficult to explain, and yet fun to visit and thought-provoking.
The world Dick has imagined is hilarious, although I’m not sure it was intended to be. Presciently, Dick sets up a future suffering from overpopulation and global warming, given that this was published in 1965, I find it particularly interesting that his mind went to a planet that gets too hot. Even though the planet is unbearably warm (people can only go outside at night and dusk/dawn), they still don’t want to colonize other planets. Colonizing the other planets is just that bad. So there’s a selective service by the UN, only instead of soldiers, those randomly selected are sent to be colonists. The wealthy can generally get out of it by faking mental illness, as the mentally ill can’t be sent away. This particular aspect of the book definitely reflects its era, as the 1960s was when the Vietnam War draft was so controversially going on.
I don’t think it’s going out on much a limb to say that drugs had a heavy influence on this book. Much of the plot centers around two warring drugs, and how altered perceptions of reality impact our real lives. One of the main characters starts out on Earth hearing about how the poor colonists have such a depressing environment that they have to turn to drugs to keep from committing suicide. But when he later is sent to Mars himself as a colonists, his impression is that in fact the colony is this downtrodden because no one tries very hard because they’re so much more focused on getting their next hit of Can-D. The Can-D has caused the lack of success on the planet, not the other way around. Whether or not he is accurate in this impression is left up to the reader.
Then of course there’s the much more major plot revolving around the new drug, Chew-Z. Without giving too much away, people think Chew-Z is a much better alternative to Can-D, but it turns out chewing it puts you under the control of Palmer Eldritch for the duration of your high, and if you overdose, you lose the ability to tell the difference between illusion and reality. The main character (and others who help him) thus must try to convince the humans that Chew-Z is bad for them before they ever even chew it. The main character has another side mission of getting people off of Can-D.
It sounds like a very anti-drugs book when summarized this way, but it felt like much more than that. People chewing Chew-Z can come to have an experience that sounds religious – seeing the three stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (a stigmata in Christian tradition is when God shows his favor on someone by giving them the marks of Jesus’ crucifixion. In this book, the three stigmata are three bodily aspects of Palmer that are unique to him). However, the experience of seeing the stigmata is in fact terrifying, not enlightening. The drugs thus represent more than drugs. They represent the idea that we could possibly know exactly what a higher power is thinking, and perhaps that it might be better to just go along as best we can, guessing, rather than asserting certainty.
All of this said, a few weaknesses of the 1960s are seen. I can’t recall a non-white character off the top of my head. Women characters exist, thank goodness, but they’re all secondary to the male ones, and they are divided pretty clearly into the virgin/whore dichotomy. They are either self-centered, back-stabbing career women, or a demure missionary, or a stay-at-home wife who makes pots and does whatever her husband asks. For the 1960s, this isn’t too bad. Women in the future are at least acknowledged and most of them work, but characterizations like this still do interfere with my ability to be able to 100% enjoy the read. Also, let’s not forget the Nazi-like German scientist conducting experiments he probably shouldn’t. For a book so forward-thinking on things like colonizing Mars and the weather, these remnants of its own time period were a bit disappointing.
Overall, though, this is a complex book that deals with human perception and ability. Are we alone in space? Can we ever really be certain that what we are seeing is in fact reality? How do we live a good life? Is escapism ever justified? Is there a higher power and if there is how can we ever really know what they want from us? A lot of big questions are asked but in the context of a mad-cap, drug-fueled dash around a scifi future full of an overheated planet and downtrodden Mars colonies. It’s fun and thought-provoking in the best way possible.
I can’t recall exactly how this ended up in my tbr but I am certain it had something to do with it being older feminist scifi/fantasy, which I collectI can’t recall exactly how this ended up in my tbr but I am certain it had something to do with it being older feminist scifi/fantasy, which I collect and read as much as possible. What I was expecting, particularly from a book from the 1970s, was a wishful book about an impossible utopia. What I got instead was a spiritual parable that left me breathless, surprised, and craving more–not out of the book but out of life.
The book starts slowly. The entire first chapter has the main character driving angrily down a road just after committing a murder during a fit of rage. He is not a character with which you can particularly empathize at this point, and it is confusing as to just when the titular Kin of Ata will show up. I admit that the first chapter moved so slowly and was so difficult to relate to that I was expecting the book to be a slog, but I persevered on, and in retrospect I appreciate the first chapter quite a bit. I’ll discuss why at the end of my review.
The man wakes up to people getting him out of the car and bringing him to a cave. They then bring him out of the cave to their hut-like homes. He perceives of them as primitive and judges them harshly. Gradually over time he comes to better understand them and their ways and to understand that he is not with primitive people hidden in the woods near his home. He is on an island, and he somehow was spirited there. I won’t discuss much more of the plot, because it could ruin it, but essentially the man is a stand-in for the reader. The Kin of Ata have spiritual lessons and teach them to the man, and in turn to the reader. It comes across much like a parable.
The Kin believe that humans need to remember and respect their dreams (actual dreams we have at night). They view our sleeping lives as just as important, if not more so, than our waking ones. They thus design their waking lives to be lived in the right manner so as to elicit the most powerful dreams. This means things like working but not too hard. Thus making yourself tired enough to sleep but not so tired that you sleep the sleep of the dead. It also means discussing your dreams every morning upon awaking. It means listening to your dreams and choosing daytime activities that suit what they are telling you. Put another way, the Kin choose daytime activities that fit the callings of their deepest souls. They essentially live a very mindful life that helps them achieve happiness and a peaceful community.
The main character starts out as a deep blight on the community. He keeps trying to force his ways upon them. He comes across as an angry cloud. After a particularly gruesome instance of living the wrong way, the man starts to pursue living the right way. He has set-backs and stumbles. It sometimes takes years for him to see the results of certain actions that he starts doing the right way. It takes perseverance, unlike living the easy way, like he used to. It’s a powerful parable for practices such as meditation, for which you often don’t see results right away.
Similarly, again, I don’t want to spoil it, but the book demonstrates how it takes a community living right for a truly peaceful and happy community to exist. It also demonstrates, though, how one person who is very strong in their commitment to this right path can impact a whole community that is lost.
I promised to touch back on why I came to appreciate the first chapter. I appreciate it because it shows us the main character living his life following the wrong path within his own original community. It shows us where he came from before showing us how he develops into a life so much better through his work with the Kin. It also makes for a powerful bookend with the final chapter, whose surprise I will not reveal.
This is a powerful parable that demonstrates how much impact living mindfully can have, and also how important developing healthy communities is for the happiness and peace of all. It shows how wrong cultural ideals can lead people astray and hurt even the perpetrators of violence. Some may struggle with parts of the book, but that is part of the process of learning the lessons in the parable. I highly recommend this short book to all seeking a thought-provoking read.
Check out my full review, including an in-depth discussion of the particular wrongful act the man commits and why I think it works within the parable, as well as the lessons to be learned from it....more
I picked this up right after finishing the first on audiobook, because finding a fast-paced story with a good narrator can be harder than it sounds. SI picked this up right after finishing the first on audiobook, because finding a fast-paced story with a good narrator can be harder than it sounds. So once I found that with the first book in the series and I saw the rest of it had the same narrator, I figured I may as well continue along with it. While I found the first book engaging and thought-provoking, I found myself periodically bored with the plot in this one, and also found it more difficult to suspend my disbelief than before.
The basic premise is that Connor is all torn up over having the arm of his once-rival (who also just so happened to threaten to rape his girlfriend, Risa). He thus holds Risa at arm’s-length (pun intended) because he’s afraid of what his own arm will do. While I appreciate the fact that it must be truly atrocious for your boyfriend to now have your attempted rapist’s arm, I think the fact that Connor lends the arm so much agency is a symptom of one particular idea in this world-building that just doesn’t work for me. The idea that body parts have their own spark of soul or agency or thought. It’s rife in this entry in the series, and it’s just plain weird to me. I can understand a character not bonding with a transplant that was forced upon him. I can understand it being weird for loved ones. I don’t, however, find myself able to suspend my disbelief enough to believe that someone’s arm has their personality in it so much that the person who it was transplanted onto would be afraid of it. It’s an arm, not a piece of brain or even a heart. The author does provide links to sources about transplant recipients feeling connected to the person whose body part they received or having memories or what have you. I appreciate that. But for me personally this plot point just does not work. Other readers may be able to suspend their disbelief better than I was able to. I for once can’t imagine not going near my own girlfriend because I was afraid of my arm. I also just disliked how much agency Connor removes from himself for his own temper. If he hits the wall when he’s angry it’s not him hitting the wall, it’s the arm hitting the wall. The arm got mad. The arm got out of control. There’s just a ridiculous lack of agency there, and I’m not super comfortable with that level of lack of agency being in a book marketed toward teenagers, who are at the best point in life for learning agency and responsibility.
I similarly have a hard time believing, from a neurological perspective, that the rewind boy, Cam, could exist. His brain is dozens’ of peoples all wound together. I could believe replacing a brain piece here or there with transplant technology, I couldn’t believe mish-mashing many together and having them actually function. Let alone with the only issue being that Cam struggles to learn to speak in words instead of metaphors. While Cam did strike me as grotesque, he mostly just struck me as an impossibility that I was then supposed to have sympathy for because he’s a person with his own feelings…but are they really? The whole thing was just a bit too bizarre for me.
On a related note, I found the scenes where Cam wakes up and learns to talk and slowly realizes what he is to be very tedious to read. They move slowly, and there is an attempt at building of suspense, but it is clear nearly immediately that Cam is a Frankenstein’s creature like experiment, even without Cam himself knowing it right away.
The other big new character is Starkey, a boy who was storked who is brought into the Graveyard. He’s basically exactly the same as Connor (he’s even still a white boy), the only difference being that was a stork and that he has no Risa to ease down his temper. I found his characterization to be uncreative, even if the building up of strife between the storks and the rest of the unwinds was a good plot point. It would have been better if the leader of the storks was more creative. Similarly, Starkey’s two main assistants are a black girl and an Indian-American boy. Just as with the first book, non-white people exist, but only as seconds to the white people. Why couldn’t either of them have been the leader of the storks?
All of these things said, there was still a lot of plot to keep the interest. I’ve barely touched on a couple of them. The world is still engaging, even if it’s hard to suspend the disbelief for it. I doubt I’d keep reading if I was reading this in print, but the audiobook narration makes it feel like listening to a movie, and it’s the perfect match for my commutes and doing dishes and such. Plus, now I’m curious as to where else the plot will go. I’m betting it will end up going in a direction I find it even harder to suspend my disbelief for, but it’ll be a fun ride seeing where that is.
Overall, fans of the first book may be disappointed by the slightly more meandering plot in this one. The addition of two new characters to follow will be distracting to some readers while others will find it adds to the interest and suspense. Some readers may be turned off by the continued lack of diversity in such a large cast of protagonists. The plot is engaging and the world is unique, though, so fans of YA dystopian scifi will probably still enjoy it.
Ultimately, the author has succeeded at creating a future world that is fascinating to visit and that also analyzes medical ethics in a creative way.Ultimately, the author has succeeded at creating a future world that is fascinating to visit and that also analyzes medical ethics in a creative way. I would honestly say the book is much more about medical ethics, particularly in regards to transplants, than it really is about abortion rights.
The basic plot is that three very different teenagers are supposed to be unwound but then find themselves on the run instead of actually at Harvest Camp. The book is in the third person but from the limited perspective of one character, and that one character switches around. It is predominantly Connor, Risa, or Lev, but it is also sometimes someone like a juvie cop or a parent. Sometimes this narrative structure works really well, providing many different perspectives on the same event or issue. Other times it feels too contrived. The perspective switches at just the right moment to keep the reader in the dark, or to reveal something we wouldn’t otherwise know. Sometimes this structure builds suspense and other times it kind of ruins it. Overall, though, I enjoyed the structure and found that the multiple perspectives really added to the world and the story.
This narrative structure is enhanced by clippings from real, modern-day newspaper articles and blogs, as well as fake advertisements and news from the future the book is set in. Partially due to the Audible narrator, who did a fantastic job at the ads, I really enjoyed these snippets of media from the future. They are very tongue-in-cheek and adult, but will still appeal to teens reading the book for their over-the-topness. I found the modern day news articles to be less interesting, and mostly felt a bit like scare mongering. They read as a bit heavy-handed in pushing the “this could really happen!” angle.
I did find it a bit frustrating that all three of the main characters are white and straight. While it is acknowledged that a few people (primarily adults) could be GLBTQ, the assumed norm is straight and cis, no matter what social organization is in control. Whether it’s mainstream society, rebels, or anyone in-between. The norm is always straight cis. Similarly, while the author does include non-white people to a much greater degree than non-straight/non-cis people (there are a wide variety of ethnicities and religions represented in the society), they are all secondary characters. One thing that really stuck out to me was that at one point in the book we meet a Chinese-American girl who is being unwound because her parents wanted a son, and they just kept trying until they got one and then picked a daughter to unwind, because they couldn’t afford all the kids. She’s also got an interesting punk aesthetic to her. What an interesting main character she would have been! Can you imagine her in the role of Connor? They are both running away from being unwound, and she could easily have taken that main character role. It just bothers me when a book has three main characters who are all in a similar situation due to society-wide problems, and yet they are so non-diverse, with just a nod at gender by having one female character.
With regards to the female character, Risa, I must say I was very disappointed to have be an attempted rape of her, and her then being saved by a male character. First, we only get one female main character and then she naturally is almost raped. Then naturally she must be saved by someone else. The whole scene sickened me, especially when I thought about teen girls reading it. It was just a completely unnecessary plot point. I once read an article that talked about how often rape scenes (or attempted rape scenes) are a sign of lack of creativity. I don’t think all of them are, but this one certainly came across that way. Unnecessary and a convenient plot point without thought to how it would affect the readers.
In spite of these characterization and style complaints though, the plot is very good, and the world is fascinating. Characters in a natural manner talk about and explore the ethics of life, when life begins, and who has the right to life, as well as who has the right to end it. The plot is fast-paced, and I read as quickly as I could to find out what happened. There are also a couple of twists at the end that rocked my socks off and left me immediately downloading the next book in the series.
All of that said, I have a few questions about the world that were never addressed. First, if everyone who is unwound is between the ages of 13 and 17, how does that work out with transplantation? People have not yet finished growing at 17, especially their minds. Does this mean a 67 year old woman would have a 15 year old’s arm if she needed a transplant? If so, that sounds very grotesque to me, and I wonder how society has learned to deal with something so mis-matched. This isn’t particularly addressed, except to say that sometimes it’s weird to look at someone with two eyes that don’t match. Similarly, the world at large isn’t really talked about at all. The kids who are trying to escape being unwound don’t even consider running into another country but they never explain why. How has the world at large reacted to the United States’ new law? Is there any country that would be a safe-haven for unwinds? Are there other countries following suit? The international impact is woefully underaddressed.
In spite of these various shortcomings, the plot and the world still sucked me in. It was a quick read that left me wanting more.
Overall, fans of dystopian ya looking for another series to whet their appetite will definitely enjoy this one. It’s a completely different dystopia from most of the ones that are already big, and I am sure YA readers who are currently teens themselves will find the idea of their parents being able to sign an unwind order on them chilling. Dystopian YA fans should definitely give this one a go.
I was surprised by the level of historic research and detail in the book, as well as the tie-in to the Dracula story, making it a marriage of two genrI was surprised by the level of historic research and detail in the book, as well as the tie-in to the Dracula story, making it a marriage of two genres.
This is a long book with a lot of rich setting detail. That doesn't tend to be my style but it works with the feel the book is going for, and many readers will enjoy the pace at which the book moves. The dark fantasy elements take time to set up, but when they get into motion they really add to the story. The story strikes a nice balance of Ecaterina working with the culture of her time-period and being bothered by certain things Vlad does. For instance, it bothers he that he has mistresses, but she comes to accept it as is expected of her in the time-period. This trajectory acknowledges the feelings the modern reader may have about the situation but also lets the character be true to her time-period.
The author toes a finely-held line of showing Vlad's cruelty but also keeping him human and not demonizing him. He was a cruel ruler but he wasn't a monster. Similarly, although Ecaterina loves him she is still disturbed by his actions when ruling. This lends both characters depth they would not have if Ecaterina's love was blind or Vlad was monstrous.
In spite of appreciating the historic fiction plot covering many decades, I did sometimes feel that the plot meandered a bit too much. I also felt that sometimes the book told too much instead of showing. Similarly, there were a few too many typos and grammatical errors for a book that is in its final version. It was not enough to make me stop reading but it was enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the story.
I appreciated how much of the book is from women's perspectives. Not just Ecaterina's but her mother's, servants, and other consorts and even a spy are featured. The female cast is strong, and that would be easy for a less thoughtful writer to pass over in favor of showcasing the men history chose to record more thoroughly.
Overall, readers seeking to learn something about the 1400s in Romania will be pleased by how much they will learn reading this book. Those who come to it due to the Dracula connection will enjoy the fantastical elements toward the end in particular. Recommended to readers of historic fiction and fantasy who do not mind a long book with a slow burn.
I went for this due to its interesting slight twist on the noir genre. I was intrigued at the idea of a PI in an alternate world where fax machines weI went for this due to its interesting slight twist on the noir genre. I was intrigued at the idea of a PI in an alternate world where fax machines were the status quo instead of PCs. It felt almost like a steampunk. Techpunk? There should be a world for this when the old tech isn't steam-power. In any case, although I found the world very interesting and I enjoyed visiting it, the plot left me dissatisfied.
This book is an enjoyable read even when the plot is doing weird things. The sentences flow smoothly, and the settings and characters are clearly rendered. I really enjoyed this alternate world. I liked it so much that I was disappointed by how little time we spend in it. Marcus is quickly scooped out and plopped into another world, and I didn't like that one nearly as much or find it as interesting. The first world Marcus inhabits is creative and new. The other worlds are more dull and are things I've seen before.
It's difficult to review this book without giving much away, but suffice to say that there is physics in the book, and while I appreciate the fact that science of it is good and well-explained, it also is a physics I've seen in scifi many times before, and I don't think this particular rendering brought anything fresh to the table.
There are three really important characters in the book: Marcus, the owner of BelisCo, and a doctor. All three of them are male. This makes the book read a bit like a boys' club, and it bugged me. The book would have instantly been more unique and interesting if, say, Marcus had been a hard-boiled woman PI. When every main character is basically the same (an intelligent white male), it's just dull.
So, the non-spoiler reason of why I wasn't into the plot is that I felt it took things just one twist too far, rendering things a bit ridiculous. If you want more explanation, see the spoiler-filled paragraph below.
(view spoiler)[ Basically, Marcus finds out that San Jose is some sort of Matrix-like simulation aka not the real world, and he is encouraged to break out of it. When he does, the buildings of San Jose start falling apart and people are mad at him. We discover that the reason for this is that the simulation was being done on a bunch of cancer patients. The science here didn't make much sense to me at the time, but basically they would live longer if they were in the simulation, giving them more of a chance to beat the cancer. Everyone entered the simulation through Marcus, and they had to keep him believing it to keep the experiment going. This whole experiment is highly illegal, and they blow up the building to get rid of the evidence. There are then hints that there are more worlds and simulations than these. First, I found the whole we're in a simulation and this isn't real life thing to be a very been there done that plot. It took us out of the much more interesting simulation world and into a computer simulation that I've seen before. The second twist of it actually being cancer treatment and them needing Marcus to stay in the world just sent the whole thing off into left field for me. Particularly since I found the science of the cancer treatment to be weak compared to the physics earlier. While I appreciate to others it may read more like a cool idea, to me it just took things on a path from super interesting to I've seen this before to wtf was that. It just really didn't work for me. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, readers who are intrigued by the world in the summary and who don't mind multiple plot twists and a predominantly male cast will enjoy this read. It is well-written and interesting, but readers expecting to linger in the fax machine world of the plot summary should know that this world is soon left behind.
Check out my full review. (Link will be live September 15, 2015).
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There are definitely Harlequins that strike my fancy. This….wasn’t really one of them.
Here’s the main problem with the book. The title and the cover aThere are definitely Harlequins that strike my fancy. This….wasn’t really one of them.
Here’s the main problem with the book. The title and the cover are incredibly misleading for what you’re actually going to get, and that’s a pet peeve of mine. As a friend of mine (who also read it) said to me, “There’s no six shooter in the book.” It sure sounds like it’s a big plot point doesn’t it? But….there’s no six shooter. There are guns, yes. But not six shooters. The cover and title make it sound like the hearthrob is some sort of sharpshooting cowboy, but he’s…neither. He’s a modern day rancher. Who drives a combine. Oh and he and his father hire a rainmaker to try to make it rain because the ranchers need rain. Sorry but none of that strikes my sexy bone the way that a sharpshooter would. WHICH IS WHAT I THOUGHT I WAS GETTING.
Let’s ignore for a moment that I would have self-selected out of this book if the title, cover, and the actual blurb (not the one I wrote above) had been accurate. What about the actual book? Well, the mystery is good…ish. It had lots of twists and turns, and the final chapter just had one too many. I read the last chapter out loud to my husband, and he said it felt like an episode of “All My Circuits” (the over-the-top robot soap opera on Futurama). Which is true. That said, I certainly didn’t figure out the mystery. Because it was so ridiculous. But there’s an entertainment factor in that that I appreciate. However, if over-the-top twists and turns are not your style, you’ll be disappointed by the last chapter of the book.
The romance and sex was sorely missing. Our heroine gets one incredibly quick (and I don’t just mean quick to read, I mean a quickie) sex scene, and that’s it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t pick up Harlequins for the story. I do expect a lot out of the sex scenes though, and this one felt like a throwaway. A “oh do I really have to write one? Fine, but it will be ludicrous and quick.” I kept reading thinking that surely this was just a teaser and there’d be a nice long steamy scene in here somewhere. But no.
So, Harlequin readers who don’t mind the love interest being a combine-driving modern day rancher who does not have a six shooter with most of the focus of the book being on its over-the-top mystery with just a touch of a romance scene will enjoy this book. The quality of the writing is fine, so long as this is the type of story the reader is after, they won’t be disappointed. Just don’t be misled by the title….or the cover….or the blurb. And maybe grab some popcorn for the last chapter.
I wondered if I would enjoy Kinsella's contemporary romance as much now as a late 20-something as I did as a teen. I’m happy to say I certainly enjoyeI wondered if I would enjoy Kinsella's contemporary romance as much now as a late 20-something as I did as a teen. I’m happy to say I certainly enjoyed this one just as much, although in a slightly different way than I used to.
I wonder how much I would have appreciated this book a few years ago. As a late-20 something myself, I laughed out loud at how the 24 year old version of me would react if she was plunked into my current life. A lot really does change in 4 years in your 20s, especially with regards to your career and your love life. The plot kind of reminded me a bit of the plot of one of my favorite romcoms 13 Going On 30. Someone who is (or perceives of themselves as) much younger and less experienced than the person whose life they are now living. How that affects them and how they react to it is really interesting. Both stories show how important actually going through the growing pains really are. You can’t just suddenly handle a more adult life; you have to grow into it.
I also appreciated that, although Lexi’s husband is drop-dead gorgeous, both she and he believe she should not sleep with him until she is comfortable with him again. She may be married to him, but she doesn’t remember who he is, and she shouldn’t do anything until she’s ready. If she ever is. Her husband is definitely controlling of her when it comes to how their household is run and how they spend money, but he is very respectful of her sexually. He doesn’t touch her unless invited to, and he stops when she says to. I was really happy to see this focus on positive, enthusiastic consent portrayed in the book.
The exploration of Lexi’s career path from lower level to high-powered boss is fascinating. Lexi is torn up that now that she’s a boss those under her think she’s a bitch. There’s a nuanced exploration of how women in power are often perceived of as bitches, even if they’re just being assertive. However, there’s also a nice exploration of how to still be true to yourself when in power. You don’t necessarily have to lead in the traditional “masculine” way if you don’t want to. This combined with the exploration of aging gave a depth to the romance that kicked it up a notch for me.
It says a lot for how much the book made me like Lexi that I was able to get past one plot point that usually spoils romances for me. However, that plot point did knock the book down from 5 to 4 stars for me.
(view spoiler)[ It turns out that 28 year old Lexi is cheating on her husband. 24 year old Lexi is just as horrified by this as I always am by cheating. The exploration of how she wound up cheating on him didn’t make it ok to me, but I did appreciate that 24 year old Lexi took agency and addressed the situation, rather than lingering in married but cheating land. I appreciated that Lexi was able to acknowledge her mistakes, forgive herself for them, and grow and change. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, fans of contemporary romance will enjoy this fun take on the amnesia plot. The plot doesn’t just cover a romance, it also covers the growing pains of being in your 20s, the challenges women face when they become the boss, and how to learn from your mistakes.
Check out my full review. (Link will be live August 25, 2015).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
When I saw this book on NetGalley, I knew I needed a review copy. I’m a passionate home chef with a love of garlic and a never-ending interest on theWhen I saw this book on NetGalley, I knew I needed a review copy. I’m a passionate home chef with a love of garlic and a never-ending interest on the history of food. This book’s title indicated it would hit all three of those interests, and its content did not let me down.
The book is divided into two parts. Part One focuses on everything but the recipes. Part Two is the recipes. Part One’s chapters cover the history of using garlic for health and for food, garlic in legends and lore, and how to grow your own. This is the section that most entertained my friends and fiancé, as they found themselves the recipients of random facts about garlic. One friend received an email of all of the types of garlic that originated in the country of Georgia; another a tip that growing some near her fruit tree might be beneficial for the tree.
Part One ends with tips on how to cultivate garlic and a selection of the various types of garlic, including notes on where they grow best, how they look, and how they taste. Garlic may be broadly divided into hardnecks and softnecks, but there are subvarieties within these two main ones. (Softnecks are the ones that you can braid). My one criticism of Part One is that I wish it had gone more in-depth into the history of garlic all over the world. It left me wanting more. Perhaps there isn’t more, but I certainly wish there was. I would additionally note that, although I personally enjoyed reading about the many varieties of garlic and took copious notes, some readers might find the listing of the types a bit tedious to read and may not be expecting it in a book of this nature.
Part Two is the recipes. It starts with notes on how to handle and prepare garlic. The recipes are then divided into: dips, sauces, and condiments; bread, pizza, and pasta; soups; salads and salad dressings; appetizers; poultry; lamb; beef; seafood; vegetarian; side dishes; dessert; and historical recipes. I marked off a total of 19 recipes that I definitely want to try, which is quite a lot for me. Often I’ll read a cookbook and only be interested in one or two of the recipes. The recipes cover a nice variety of cuisines, and the historic recipes are fascinating, although most readers will probably not try them as they require things such as fresh blood. Besides the historic recipes, the dessert ones are probably the most surprising. I actually did mark one off as one I’d like to try–Roasted Garlic Creme Brulee.
I have managed to make one of the recipes so far: Garlic Scape Pesto (loc 1649). For those who don’t know, garlic scapes are the green stalks that grow out of the bulbs. They must be trimmed (on most varieties). They taste a bit like a cross between garlic and leeks. Our local produce box happened to give us a bunch of them right around when I read the book, and I’m a big pesto fan, so I decided to try the recipe.
The recipe is supposed to make 2 cups. I halved it, and somehow still wound up with 2 cups of pesto. The recipe suggests storing the leftovers under a layer of olive oil. I found that unnecessary. My extra kept in the fridge in a tupperware container for a week without adding a layer of protective oil. The pesto was truly delicious though. I partially chose it since I have made garlic scape pesto before, and I must say I found this one much more delicious than the other recipe that I tried. I am looking forward to trying the others I am interested in, although I will probably continue to halve the recipes, as I am only cooking for two.
Overall, foodies with a love of garlic will find this book both fascinating and a source of new recipes to try. Some readers may wish for more information, while others may find themselves a bit more informed on the varieties of garlic than they were really looking for. All will find themselves chock full of new information and eager to try new ways to use garlic…and perhaps even to start growing some heirloom varieties for themselves.
Check out my full review, featuring quotes and a picture of my pesto! (Link will be live August 27, 2015).
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
While I did enjoy the beginning of the book for its honest look at what missions are actually like, the character development becomes increasingly morWhile I did enjoy the beginning of the book for its honest look at what missions are actually like, the character development becomes increasingly more lackluster and flat throughout the book, working in direct contrast with an increasingly complex plot and souring the whole book. Additionally, although the book avoids having a Christian slanted take to missions, it certainly does not manage to tell the neutral story I was hoping for. The author's slant is more and more apparent as the book goes on, and it ends up being quite heavy-handed by the end.
The beginning of the book is excellent. Rather than giving Nathan the voice, all of the story telling is from the point of view of one of the women in his life whom he silences--Orleanna (his wife), Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May. It is so powerful to see him through their eyes. To see him striving so hard to maintain control over everyone and simultaneously hear from their thoughts that he can never truly control them. It's empowering and simultaneously heartbreaking.
It's also interesting to see how Nathan's stubbornness and know-it-all nature prevents him from ever truly connecting to or even helping the people in the village he's working in. He thinks his way is always the best, completely missing that he and the villagers could actually trade knowledge and information and all end up better. Because they are, in his mind, backwards and unsaved, he refuses to ever listen to them. His refusal to ever bend causes the mission to break. For instance, he insists on baptism in the river, even though the villagers are afraid to go in the river because of crocodiles. He could have made a compromise, perhaps a tub of water in the church, but he continues to insist on the river, leading the villagers to believe he is out to get their children killed by crocodiles. It's a gentle and subtle message, unlike others in the book, that could be applied to many aspects of many lives. Be willing to listen, grow, and learn.
Once the Congo rebellion starts though, the book begins a slow slide off the rails. The voices of the women change from developing toward a well-rounded presentation of their characters to flat cardboard cut-out versions of their original selves. For instance, Rachel goes from being a femme teenager frustrated with being stuck in the jungle to a cardboard cut-out racist white supremacist. While being a white supremacist is obviously wrong, Rachel isn't well-rounded enough to let her still be human. She is instead a monster, which is a disservice to us all. It is only by seeing how those who seem monstrous are just humans gone wrong can we learn something. The same is true of the rest of the women, although they are all taken in different directions toward different stereotypes. One loses her mental health, another becomes a scholar, etc... But they all become stereotypes rather than older versions of their well-rounded younger selves.
Similarly, although the multiple different perspectives work well for a bunch of different sets of eyes seeing the same situations play out in the same village, when the daughters grow up, the multiple perspectives become instead individual perspectives of their own individual lives with some periodic judgment from one sister to another on how she's choosing to live her life. Instead of giving a richly varied representation of one situation, the reader instead gets a slanted viewpoint of several different situations. It again renders the story flat instead of well-rounded. I found myself thinking many times that the book would have been better if it had just ended at the end of the section that takes part in the daughters' childhoods.
The plot and character shifts both line up with a tone shift that goes from neutrally presenting what occurs in the village to having a decided political slant. It feels as if the point goes from telling a good story to convincing the reader to feel a certain way. I think it's interesting that this slant and the weaker writing go hand-in-hand. It's a good reminder that if you focus on telling a good story, a message may come across on its own anyway, but don't try to force a story to fit a message you want to tell. That hurts the story.
Overall, the beginning of the book is quite strong, featuring an interesting plot and characters but about 2/3 of the way through, it loses its strength, falling into caricature and message pushing that hurt the story as a whole. Recommended to readers who are quite interested in the beginning and wouldn't mind skimming the end.
While I enjoyed the read and the art, I did not enjoy it as much as the movie, finding it to be too heavy-handed and obvious in its message, as well aWhile I enjoyed the read and the art, I did not enjoy it as much as the movie, finding it to be too heavy-handed and obvious in its message, as well as a bit too stereotypical in how it handled its Native American characters.
The art is bright and colorful with easy-to-follow panels. The book opens with a clearly laid out parallel between the colonizing alien species and the white settlers in America. It’s clever to make a group actively colonizing another group suddenly the victim of colonizers themselves. However, the direct juxtaposition jumping back and forth between the two visually is too heavy-handed. Readers know about colonization on our own planet. Just tell the story of the aliens and let us see the white settler characters slowly realize that they’re doing the same thing to others. Instead, the readers are shown several times both the parallels between the two and one of the white settlers suddenly dramatically realizing the similarities in the situations.
The Native American characters aren’t horribly handed, however they are treated a bit too much magically for my taste. Thankfully, how they help fight the aliens mostly comes from ingenuity, not magic.
Both of those things said, the aliens in the story are diverse and interestingly drawn. Seeing Native Americans and white settlers battle the aliens with a combination of their own gear and stolen alien items was really fun to read. Just not as much fun or as well-developed of a plot as it was in the movie.
Overall, this is a quick graphic novel that would be a fun read for either hardcore fans of the movie or those interested in the basic idea but who prefer graphic novels to movies.
The basic idea of a ship full of thousands of people wandering outer space for thousands of years and how that impacts their culture is a good one. BuThe basic idea of a ship full of thousands of people wandering outer space for thousands of years and how that impacts their culture is a good one. But it is unfortunately supported by weak characterization, quite a bit of telling instead of showing (often in the form a conversational infodump), questionable science, and aggravating plot twists.
I am not a scifi reader who expects everything to be Asimov or heavy on the science. I enjoy the broad range that scifi has to offer. But I do expect a scifi that takes itself seriously, as this one does, to have: a plot that makes sense, at least two characters who are well-rounded and richly presented, and any science within it to be accurate or at least plausible. This scifi definitely takes itself seriously, but it fails on these marks.
The book opens with a first person narration of the nameless hero (later named Harbinger) believing he is being dissected by an alien race. It takes quite a bit of time to find out that he was cryogenically frozen on this ship, and the rebels of the prison ship have woken him up. If this wasn't a review copy, I probably would have given up before Harbinger figures this out, because the reader has zero reason to care about this character who is being dissected, apparently. It's quite jarring to open up the book that way, and it's hard to read with no investment in any of the characters at all. It's a rough beginning.
Harbinger has amnesia, so he can't help the rebels figure out why exactly he was on the ship. But they do discover that he has superhuman powers, just as the rebels were hoping, so they want him to help them fight for access back to Echelon--the ship that is not a prison (There are names for both ships, but I honestly can't remember what the name of the prison ship was.) The rebel character who works closest with Harbinger is a woman named Leema. Harbinger gets slightly more characterization than Leema, because we are inside his head. But both come across as flat. Their actions appear to exist entirely as plot devices and not out of real, rich motivation. For instance, Leema seems mostly to exist to give Harbinger information, to have sex with, then to spur him to make certain decision. She doesn't come across as a person so much as a plot device. The same can be said for the leader of the rebels, Argus, an older man who calls people "son." He simply does not feel real. He feels like a plot device who pops in whenever it's necessary to make something happen to Harbinger.
The writing often relies on conversational infodump, which is a shame, because when there are action sequences, they are interesting and exciting. The periodic action sequences are what kept me reading. They are well-written, particularly the fight scenes. But when the characters talk, the conversation doesn't feel real. It feels like the author is speaking directly to the reader through the characters, often to provide background information. This is known as an infodump, and it's frustrating to read. It would be better to work this information into the plot, rather than have characters sit in a room and say it at each other for chapters at a time.
The science is a bit shaky. For instance, the spaceship is decorated with marble. Real marble. Real marble is incredibly heavy, and there's a weight limit that spaceships can handle. It's hard to imagine a people desperate to save humanity from meteors wasting precious weight space on marble decorations. Similarly, Harbinger is never fully explained. He appears to be human and bleeds but can't feel pain, has superhuman strength, can only be killed by cutting off his head. Is he a robot? Or a genetically modified humanoid? Maybe a clone? Leema explains "his kind" being created but she seems to know very little about it, which makes it odd that she and the rebels knew enough to know how to break him free from Ark by cutting into him and adjusting things inside his body. The core of the idea is good but it's just not explained enough. That is really what makes some of the science in the book weak. It's not gone into in enough depth to make enough sense.
Finally, the plot makes quite a few quick zany twists, most of which I was willing to give a pass. The final twist, however, made me want to throw my kindle against the wall. (I didn't, because I like my kindle). I'm sure the final plot twist was intended to make the reader want to continue on to the next book in the series, but it actually just left me feeling deeply unsatisfied and frustrated. If I had to put my finger on what made it so frustrating, I'd say that it felt forced, not organic.
Overall, this book consists of a good basic idea that suffers from infodumping, weak characters, and being forced to stick to a plot that doesn't feel organic. Rich characters who drove an organic plot free of infodumps could have made this into an interesting world and cultural exploration. Instead, it's a frustrating read.
Check out my full review. (Link will be live August 11, 2015).
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
I picked this book up expecting it to be another mystery of the week entry in the series, but what I found was a surprising development in the overarcI picked this book up expecting it to be another mystery of the week entry in the series, but what I found was a surprising development in the overarching plot that kept my heart in my throat but also left me dubious about the possible directions the next book could take.
The plot starts out similarly to the previous entry in the series. Someone close to Toby is in danger. In this case, it’s Lily, and she’s sick, slowly fading out of existence. Over the course of the book, others close to Toby end up sick as well, as it soon becomes clear (this is really not a spoiler, it’s revealed early on) that someone is poisoning them. When Oleander showed up, I nearly groaned at how obvious it felt that she is the one to blame for all of this. But it’s not quite that straight-forward, and there’s also a sub-plot of Toby possibly going crazy….which changelings are known to do in this world. The book then isn’t just about Toby trying to solve the mystery, it’s also about her trying to determine if her blood has doomed her to sink into insanity. This gives the plot enough depth to keep it interesting.
Long-standing characters receive more depth of character development and new ones are added. Toby cotinues to have the wit that keeps the book upbeat even when things are grim.
As for the plot twist, I can’t talk about it much without spoilers. The spoiler free review would be that I am concerned the big overarching plot twist moves things a bit too far into one hero to save us land, which isn’t a fantasy plot I personally usually enjoy. For the spoiler version of this, see the next paragraph.
(view spoiler)[ It is revealed that Toby is not the type of Fae she thought, she is rather a very rare type of Fae. This type of Fae is capable of changing the make-up of their own blood. She can thus morph into more Fae, changeling, or human as she desires. It also turns out her mother is from the first born, which makes her kind of Fae royalty. My issue with this is one of the things I like so much about the series is that Toby lacks the magical powers to the extent the Fae have. She also doesn’t fit into the human world. But she fights for her right to be in the world she chooses to live in, and her value in the Fae world is due to how hard she tries and her brains, not her blood. This plot development feels like it’s making it all about her blood. Her power is due to whose daughter she is, not who she herself is. That’s just not a message I’m as fond of. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, this is an action-packed entry in the series that visits another mystery with enough different sub-plots and twists to keep it interesting. Fans of the series will be surprised by the big overarching plot development toward the end of the book and will be eager to pick up the next one to see where this plot development goes.
Check out my full review, featuring quotes!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more