This book ended up not being what I expected. I probably should have paid moReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind February 12, 2016:
This book ended up not being what I expected. I probably should have paid more attention to the fact that literary fiction was there alongside the SFF genre categorisation on NetGalley, but it wasn’t just that it wasn’t really my style of book. I found aspects of it confusing and inconsistent, plus the story was quite slow, all of which led to me enjoying it less than I might have.
After dying at age 64, Arnold Showalter becomes the world’s first “literary voice from beyond the grave”. He cannot feel emotions and has to rely on things like diving into volcanoes to get anything close to a thrill, but when he meets Clarisse, a ghost girl who died at age 15, and realises she can feel, he realises that the ghost-life he has been making do with isn’t how it has to be.
Arnold was the type of character you would expect to find in literary fiction, but as I mentioned, literary fiction is not really my thing, so I didn’t really care that much about his kind of crappy life. And even though age is probably not really an issue if you’re dead, I also felt a little bit weird about 64-year-old Arnold becoming as obsessed with 15-year-old Clarisse as he did.
The world-building was what confused me most in this book. Several ghosts seemed to have “jobs” that constituted haunting particular locations during business hours. They signed a contract, and were expected to punch in and out. But then there would be references to Arnold not really having set hours and being able to take off early if he wanted. It also seemed that as ghosts, the post-living could shoot off out of the Earth’s atmosphere, which made me wonder what kept them working. The punishment for breaking the Contract was disintegration, but they could clearly get far enough away that that wouldn’t be an issue. There was also some philosophical stuff at the end about Ghost Winds and this being the next stage of human evolution, but I felt like I missed something earlier in the book leading up to this, so it felt like it came out of nowhere and wasn’t very clear to me.
Overall, I feel like this was a definite case of “it’s not you, it’s me”, but I’m glad it was only short so that I could get all the way through it.
(Thanks to NetGalley and Black Rose Writing for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)...more
- a diverse cast of characters (Persian, Chinese, Chinese-American, African, along with LGBTQI*...4.5 stars
Things that made me really love this book:
- a diverse cast of characters (Persian, Chinese, Chinese-American, African, along with LGBTQI*...) - a unique mode of time travel - mythology from various cultures - the way this mythology was intertwined with history, as the author's note at the end explained. - a love triangle that was for the most part not annoying
Things that knocked half a star off my rating:
- that there was a love triangle at all, especially as there is the potential for it to get quite annoying in Book 2 - the blurb was a bit misleading. Nix's father's threat about leaving Kashmir behind takes up about 10-15% of the novel before he apologises and it's all fine.
A more in depth review will go up on release day (February 16, 2016)...more
I’m probably going to forget half the things I wanted to mention in this review, but I’lReview posted to A Keyboard and an Open Mind February 5, 2016:
I’m probably going to forget half the things I wanted to mention in this review, but I’ll try my best to make it a good one anyway. Reading Illuminae was a bit of a roller-coaster ride. For the first 200 pages, I didn’t think it would get more than 3 stars, then for a while it went up to 5 stars, but there were enough things to annoy me that I brought it back down a little.
Kady and Ezra just broke up this morning, and then their planet was invaded. Evacuated and on a six-month journey towards safety, they have to deal not only with being separated (because maybe they didn’t actually want to break up), but also with a deadly virus, a psychopathic AI, and moral quandaries that most 17-year-olds would much rather avoid.
This book is written in a very unique format. The text is basically the book equivalent of a “found footage” movie. It’s a dossier of emails, IMs, security footage analysis, computer logs, etc. It was very clever, though it did leave little room for really good character development. It also got hard to read at times. There were literally pages I skipped because I had no idea which direction the text went in. Thankfully, those pages were more philosophical than plot-related, so I didn’t miss much. (Also, I pity those of you reading it on a Kindle; I was reading the paperback and it was difficult enough!)
Maybe I’m just being cynical and nit-picky but I also felt that the book used its format to disguise the fact that the story itself wasn’t quite as original as it pretended to be. I mean, sure, there’s probably not a huge amount left you can do with self-aware AIs that hasn’t been done in some form before, but I literally had the voice of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey in my head for that character; they just felt so alike. Having said that, AIDAN was actually one of my favourite characters.
I never felt Kady had much development beyond kick-ass teenage girl. She had reason to be all hardened and cynical, but I would have liked some nuance in there somewhere. She made some choices that I really questioned, and it wasn’t because she wanted to save the 1000 people over on that other ship, it was because she wanted to save her boyfriend. If the other 1000 people got saved, that was a bonus. I also got tripped up by inconsistencies like “her hazmat suit is too big for her” including the sleeves and presumably the gloves as well, but she is managing to type IMs on a tablet just fine.
Ezra was a bit better because he seemed to actually have some friends, so we got a bit more depth out of him through his relationships with these other soldiers. But still, there were so many occasions of them IMing each and just being lovesick at each other (despite the fact that Kady is having to hack the official systems just to get in touch with Ezra) that I didn’t really warm to either of them very much. There were some good side characters, but they never really played huge parts, unfortunately.
This is the first in a series, but I’m not 100% sure I’d be up to reading a second book in the same format. Still, I’ll wait and see....more
(Thank you to the author and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this booOriginally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind January 30, 2016:
(Thank you to the author and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)
This book ended up not being quite what I expected from the cover and the blurb, but I still ended up really enjoying it. I did expect something a bit darker and mysterious and quirky, with a bit more mystery, but what I ended up reading had enough redeeming features that I still felt it deserved a higher rating.
Lily Coltrane is beginning her first year at Piketon University and during Freshers week, joins the Illustrious Minds Literary Society, a group who attends the local Theatre Imaginique every month. The theatre’s headline act, Lemarick Novel, seems to be able to produce lightning from his fingers and levitate with no sign of wires. At first, Lily is unnerved that his eyes always seem to light on her, but it turns out it is with good reason. Lily has her own magical abilities, inherited from a father she never knew, and she is a Shade, just like Novel. Novel takes her on as an apprentice, but when news comes that Shadehunters are closing in on Piketon, Lily isn’t sure whether she or Novel will be able to protect each other, and the people closest to them.
From the way the blurb is worded, I expected that the mystery of who or what Novel was would take centre stage for most of the novel, and that he would probably end up being some form of antagonist. The cover also made me think that it would be darker read, but all the questions about Novel are answered within the first third of the book, which does essentially lower the curtain of mystique surrounding the Theatre Imaginique. When Lily is spending a huge amount of time there, training, it’s hard to maintain any mystery.
However, the plot that does emerge is still entertaining. We get to know the various performers really well, and the world-building surrounding shades and their magic, as well as why shadehunters exist, is all tightly plotted and woven through the narrative.
My favourite thing about this book, though, was the relationships between the characters. Particularly the fact that Lily had more than one love interest without it ever straying into love triangle territory. Sure, one of them is a bit of a dick when things don’t work out with her, but he’s a dick because he’s hurt, not because he’s an entitled prat (I would go as far as saying Lily leads him on a bit). I would have preferred that the main romance was a bit more slow-burn, but it wasn’t written badly so I was happy for it to happen the way it did. The other characters are also really well-written, from Lily’s roomie and best friend, Jazzy, to the other members of the Theatre.
There were some formatting issues; I’m not sure whether that’s due to the file I was sent, my Kindle being silly, or errors in the original formatting. Each chapter is preceded by a Playbill for the upcoming performance at the Theatre Imaginque. These were chopped in half every time when I was reading, so I had to flick back and forth between two pages to read it fully. There were also some cases of choppy sentences where one part of the sentence may have been rephrased but the rest wasn’t altered to suit it, things like that.
The next book gives us two shorter stories that provide back story for some of the major characters and then the third follows on with Lily’s story. I’m definitely going to grab these as well; I’m keen to see how this series pans out....more
This was a tricky book for me to rate, and I wavered between three and four,Review originally posted at A Keyboard and an Open Mind 17 January, 2016:
This was a tricky book for me to rate, and I wavered between three and four, before deciding to split the difference. It was a very easy read, and didn’t take me long to get through, but it did feel like I was reading a lot of set-up for future books.
Blue Sargent comes from a family of psychics, though she has no psychic ability herself. When she sees the spirit of a boy named Gansey on St Mark’s Eve, it sets into motion an association with a group of boys from the local private boy’s school, and a search for the grave of Owen Glendower, a Welsh King that Gansey believes is buried in America.
The characters are all have very individual personalities. Gansey is wealthy and privileged and puts his foot in his mouth a lot because of that; Ronan has a lot of baggage and a lot of secrets; Adam comes from an abusive household and resents the privilege around him; and Noah, the quiet observer. Blue’s character is primarily linked to her psychic family; she was a fairly standard teenage girl character, and something of a means to an end-type character (while not psychic herself, she can amplify psychic energy for others).
While there was some interesting world-building based on the idea of magical ley lines across the world, it was sometimes a bit patchy. Big revelations never really felt particularly huge, or they were easy to predict.
Overall, it was an interesting enough read that I stayed up quite late to finish it, and I actually am still interested enough to continue with the series, but this wasn’t quite exciting enough to be plot-driven, and the characters weren’t quite stand-out enough to carry it as a character-driven one....more
This is a hugely philosophical book in the guise of YA sci-fi. If you have aReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 24 January, 2016:
This is a hugely philosophical book in the guise of YA sci-fi. If you have a picky brain, you will need to actively hand-wave some of the science, but I think it’s worth it for the ideas it brings up and makes you think about.
In the book’s prologue, we get a very graphic description of a boy drowning. I actually read this much of the book on my Kindle last year, but it was immediately after finishing Ness’ Chaos Walking series, and I realised very quickly I needed a break from the emotional trauma he had just put me through and was likely to again. I got the hardcover from the library this year and skipped reading the prologue again; I still had some rather vivid images in my head.
The boy dies, and then he wakes up again, covered in strange bandages, in front of a home he hasn’t lived in in years. And the place is deserted. As he tries to figure out what is going on, he meets Tomasz, a Polish boy who claims he was struck by lightning, and Regine, who supposedly fell down the stairs. We gradually learn about all three characters, and discover that even though it’s only the three of them in a vast, empty world, there are plenty of secrets they are hiding from each other. The secrets come out, though, as they try to figure out their situation.
As you can see, I’m trying to be pretty vague here, because the characters and the plot are all tied up together really well and this book will lose all impact if you are spoiled for it. The plot is definitely interested, though there was one repeat-event that was on par with Aaron showing up at the end of every chapter in The Knife of Never Letting Go. I had a bit of warning about that from some of the reviews I’d read, so I quickly learned not to assume anything was done and dusted.
The three primary characters are all diverse and unique. Tomasz and Regine both have walls that they’ve put up but as they come down, you realise how much they’ve been through. The three main characters all had very different traumas that they had been through, and Ness presents them all realistically.
The strongest part of this book is the philosophical questions it raises. What is reality? How do we know we’re not dreaming all the time? And does it really matter either way? If there was a way to exorcise the horrible parts of your life, would you? These questions aren’t strictly answered, but they are explored very well.
Overall, while this book isn’t as good as the Chaos Walking series or A Monster Calls, I think Patrick Ness fans should definitely still check it out....more
Thanks to the author and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of thisReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind, 10 January, 2016:
Thanks to the author and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.
I have to admit, I wasn’t 100% how I’d like Alternate, as time travel always has the potential to do one’s head in if not done right. Fortunately, though, this one hit the mark!
In 2020, Greyson Tolbert’s eight-year-old daughter was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Ten years later, he is working for the Watchtower as a time travelling assassin, with the promise that after a set number of years’ service, he will be able to save his daughter. But when a colleague goes rogue and he is sent to apprehend her, everything he knows about the Watchtower begins to unravel.
For something with as much time travel as this book has (and it has a lot), the plot is extremely well-structured, and never really got confusing. Potential paradoxes are dealt with quite well, and it was always clear what time period we were in. Greyson’s POV is in third person, while the several other POV characters were all in third person, and this worked quite well. The narrative unfolds at a really good pace. There were lots of twists, but they never felt like they were there for shock value.
The reason it only gets four stars from me is because I wasn’t particularly invested in the characters. I definitely wanted to see how the story panned out, but I wasn’t going to be hugely bothered by who made it out and who didn’t. Which isn’t to say that the characters weren’t well-drawn, because they were, I think being as hardened as they were thanks to their various pasts made it difficult for me to get inside their heads....more
When I first finished this book, I gave it four stars, because I wasn’t quite sureReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 15/01/2016:
When I first finished this book, I gave it four stars, because I wasn’t quite sure that I liked it enough to give it a full five. But since I was still very much thinking about it the next day, and found myself poring over the digitised versions of William Dawes’ notebooks (William Dawes being the real life lieutenant from whose life and work Kate Grenville took inspiration for this book), as well as still smiling and slightly tearing up over the way the book ends, by the time I got to writing this review, I decided it deserved to have its rating upped.
The Lieutenant follows the story of Daniel Rooke, an outsider in his native England, who joins the First Fleet on its voyage to the new colony of New South Wales. Once here, he sets up camp in an isolated spot to better his chances of accurate astronomical observations. The local indigenous people soon start to visit his camp, and as a linguist also, he begins to learn the intricacies of their language. This leads to an intimate friendship with a young girl called Tagaran, from whom he learns a significant portion of the language. But her lessons and their friendship are interrupted when Rooke is given an order that will change his life forever.
I’m still pretty new to historical fiction, so when the first part of the novel was taken up with Daniel’s growing up years in Portsmouth, I was torn between finding Daniel himself a very endearing character, and wanting the story to hurry up and get to the good stuff in New South Wales. This eventually happened, and Grenville does a marvelous job in giving a sense of place through her descriptions, and portraying the challenges faced by the settlers. Being shy in the first place, and also isolated from his fellow Europeans, Rooke’s POV gives us a removed observation point from which to watch the action unfold in the settlement. I found myself face-palming on many occasions, wishing they would just use some (by my modern-day standards) common sense. Instances like the English speaking to the native people in very slow, broken English in the hopes they would understand seem unbelievable today, yet I know this is what it would have been like. Meanwhile, Rooke is up on the hill, filling his notebooks with vocabulary and grammar, but terrified to let anyone see them, lest it ruin the fragile friendship he is forming with these people.
The relationship between Rooke and Tagaran is a real highlight. At first, Rooke is just pleased that she and her friends are paying him attention because it means he can start making notes on their language. Once they are at a point where they communicate with each other, Rooke develops a real depth of feeling for her that he is unable to describe (it is never explicitly stated that this is romantic, and there are definitely times when she reminds him of his younger sister, Anne, but it could be interpreted that way if you wanted to). When he is visited by other settlers, they express disbelief that he has formed friendships with any natives, because, well, obviously, they’re too primitive. When when of his friends assumes that he must be sleeping with Tagaran, because why else would he be spending time with her, it was pretty heartbreaking watching a shy and flustered Rooke trying and failing to explain that it’s not like that all.
At first it seemed like the part of the book set in NSW ended rather abruptly, followed by a jump in both time and location. But in taking us to the end of Rooke’s life and looking back with him over his years in NSW and the decisions he made towards the end of his time there, Grenville gives a very satisfying conclusion, albeit one that brought a little tear to my eye.
I listened to the Bolinda audio book read by Nicholas Bell. He read in an English accent that suited Rooke’s point-of-view, but was also able to vary that for the other settler characters. I wonder if he studied the Gadigal language beforehand as well, as he seemed to have a good ear for its pronunciation (admittedly, that is coming from an uneducated person who would be unable to tell the difference between one Indigenous language/dialect and another).
Overall, I would recommend this book to all historical fiction fans, Australian or otherwise....more
Initial Review: This took forever to come in for me at the library, but it was totally worth the wait. I loved this. Fairy-tale-style writing combinedInitial Review: This took forever to come in for me at the library, but it was totally worth the wait. I loved this. Fairy-tale-style writing combined with sci-fi elements that we're all familiar with from Doctor Who combined for some really entertaining stories. And I love the idea of the Doctor featuring in half of Gallifrey's fairy tales.
Only giving four stars because the short story format meant I couldn't really get invested as I like to, but the concept, writing, and characterisation were fantastic. Oh, also, the illustrations, which are in a wood-cutting style. Loved them.
Everyone knows I’m a big Doctor Who fan. I’ve even visited the TARDIS and it was maybe one of the best days of my life. And you only have to scroll through my reviews to see how much I enjoy fairy tale re-tellings. Even so, I was a little bit apprehensive about this book. I didn’t finish Doctor Who: Tales of Trenzalore: The Eleventh Doctor's Last Stand, and the Doctor Who novels do tend to be a bit hit-or-miss. This book was wonderful, though.
I’m going to assume that all of the stories in here are based on existing fairy tales, though I didn’t recognise all of them. Some stand-out ones included a Beauty and the Beast variation in which the Twelfth Doctor assists to reverse the effects of a time-loop-genetics-DNA screw-up, and another of The Pied Piper of Hamlin, in which the Second Doctor helps the crew of a space station to defeat an infestation of Cybermats. Not all the stories mention the Doctor, though they all star alien races from the series that we all know and love.
In all the stories, the writing was in that kind of quaint fairy-tale style that you expect from bedtime stories, but the sci-fi features were woven seamlessly into the writing. I could completely imagine some stuffy Time Lord official sitting by his child’s bedside in the Capital, telling him any one of these stories.
Now all that remains is for someone to write the fanfiction where a Gallifreyan child recognises the Doctor as one of the characters, and then the Doctor realises that he is indeed the character he so loved in his own childhood. Because that would be adorable....more
(Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book forReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind:
(Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book for reviewing purposes)
The synopsis of this book sounded really intriguing and the cover really caught my eye, so I decided I wanted to give it a go. Unfortunately, it came across more as a bunch of under-developed ideas than a cohesive novel.
Somewhere In Between tells the story of Rom and Magnolia, two misfit teenagers/young adults who discover a portal to another reality. This reality changes every time they visit, but they keep going back; it’s a special place that the two of them can share without any interference from others. When they are reunited after college, they return to the In Between Place, but have to face their pasts and other demons while they’re there.
The main issue I had with the book was the time jumps. One second the characters are in their junior or senior year, the next it’s after college, then it’s back to school. In one chapter. With no indication that the time jump has happened; you just have to figure that out from the fact that someone is being referred to as dead or alive, and things like that.
It was also completely unclear what was real and what wasn’t. I got that the characters’ visits to the In Between Place were altering reality outside of it (at least, I think that’s what was happening), but it went beyond “ambiguous” and into “confusing and unclear” territory. Added to never knowing what time period I was in, I had very little idea of the characters’ original time line or how it was being changed. Apart from these supposed changes, the In Between Place seemed pretty insignificant to the overall plot.
It is worth mentioning that the book is very short (146 pages). I think with some fleshing out of the characters and the world-building, this could have been really entertaining and engaging, but as it is, I feel it went to print too early....more
I read this many times as a kid and re-read it today before passing it on to my niece. It amused me just as much now. It's completely ridiculous. AlsoI read this many times as a kid and re-read it today before passing it on to my niece. It amused me just as much now. It's completely ridiculous. Also, it's by Tim Winton. Who knew I wasn't as illiterate in his books as I thought....more
I was recommended this series by a friend years ago when it was still a web sReview originally posted to A Keyboard and an Open Mind January 29, 2016:
I was recommended this series by a friend years ago when it was still a web serial and not yet available in book form. I think perhaps if I had also read it as a web serial, I would have been a little more forgiving of it, but as it was, I found it hard to really enjoy. It definitely delivers on its promise of being “urban fantasy for geeks”, but a lot of that went over my head, too, which didn’t help.
When Stef Mimosa was only two, she died of a gunshot wound, but an Angel confronted Death and brought her back. Years later, Stef still remembers this, but she tries to focus on science instead, and pays the bills as a hacker. After a job goes crazy wrong, her Angel, actual name Ryan, finds her hiding in a wardrobe, and introduces her to the Agency, an organisation that combines magic and technology to benefit and protect the masses. When Stef joins them, they are in preparation for Mirrofall, an event where another world ends and pieces fall to Earth. Stef quickly embarks on training to help her take part in the process, but her own insecurities threaten to prevent her from ever really being part of this new world.
I think one of the issues is that the book covers such a short space of time. The events really only take place over about a week, so in terms of character, there is little time for anything to really change. When you think about this short time span, the fact that Stef undergoes very little character growth, and is still having exactly the same “I’m a failure, I can’t be here, I’ll f*ck everything up” freak-outs at 90% that she was having at 25% of the book, is not surprising. But it’s frustrating to continue reading that and not see any change.
On the flip side, Ryan was very quick to adopt her as the daughter-he-never-had (he has a son who has nothing to do with him, but Stef remembers him saving her and he’s sentimental about things like that) and to let his affection for her cloud his judgement. He makes some really poor decisions for really no reason at all, like making her a field agent like him in the first place, and then letting her be in the field with him for the Mirrorfall, despite the fact that she hasn’t even had a week’s worth of training and she is really better suited to the tech department.
There’s another character, Curt, who does actually point out these issues, but I felt like I was supposed to be finding him annoying and whiny, rather than the voice of reason.
The world-building was actually really good, but filtered through Stef’s tech-oriented mind, a lot of it went over my head. I’m still not sure whether Ryan was AI or what. Stef viewed him as some sort of program or code, but I didn’t actually understand for the most part. I did enjoy the descriptions of the different magical creatures that Stef and Ryan met.
The other main issue was that this definitely could have used another edit. There were typos and words missing often enough, and certain… not really leet-speak, but words mostly used online like “fsck” instead of swearing and “pls” rather than please. I wouldn’t have minded if it had been Stef writing a note, but when she used “pls” in dialogue, it seemed odd.
While the editing isn’t something that can be fixed by anyone but the author, from the reviews I’ve read of the second book, it does sound like it addresses some of the plot/character issues I had, so I haven’t entirely written off. It’s just always a bit sad when you don’t love a book as much as the friend who recommended it did....more
I felt very nostalgic listening to this, even though I never actually read it as a child. The creation of Narnia had some really beautiful descriptionI felt very nostalgic listening to this, even though I never actually read it as a child. The creation of Narnia had some really beautiful descriptions, to the point where I barely even minded the heavy-handed Christianity parallels.
Also, Kenneth Branagh was a wonderful narrator. ...more
To quote Todd Hewitt, one of this series’ protagonists, stupid effing book. I was honesReview posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 19 December 2015:
To quote Todd Hewitt, one of this series’ protagonists, stupid effing book. I was honestly a bit of an emotional wreck when I got to the end of it, though I had to put on a brave face and go and spend three hours on the reference desk at the library where I work immediately after.
Monsters of Men is the third and final installment in the Chaos Walking trilogy, and it continues to raise questions about freedom, war, love, race, colonisation and a whole host of other issues. Once again, we have Todd and Viola’s alternating viewpoints, along with a third, The Return, one of the indigenous Spackle, who we met as 1017 in Book 2. War between the Spackle and the settlers has once again begun, and Todd and Viola are not just caught between humans and Spackle, but between the two human factions as well. Mayor Prentiss and Mistress Coyle continue to clash, meanwhile Todd never knows exactly where he and the Mayor stand, and Viola struggles with some bad decisions she that she makes. There are no cut-and-dry right and wrong answers in this book (the whole series, really), something Patrick Ness portrays beautifully. Even the Mayor, as the most obvious antagonist, makes good points about the sacrifices that sometimes have to be made in war.
I did sometimes find this book getting even more repetitive than The Ask and the Answer. The characters don’t move around much, so the plot is quite dialogue-driven, and often they have the same conversations over and over again. Todd and Viola’s character development once again was the highlight, though they do spend a lot of time pining after each other. The Mayor and Mistress Coyle are both fascinating characters, both pulling stunts I never expected, even from them, in their determination to be the ones who make peace with the Spackle. I wasn’t as invested in The Return’s POV, because I hadn’t just spent two books getting attached to him, but I understood Ness’ reasons for including him in the narrative. And once again, every side character feels completely fully formed.
Patrick Ness does not wrap the series up in a nice package with a bow, but it does end on a hopeful enough note to be satisfying. Well. I say “satisfying”. I won’t lie, being at work was the only thing that stopped me from becoming a sobbing wreck. Even hours later, I was still a bit teary, and I was still thinking about the book days later. But this is not the sort of series that would work with an entirely happy, everything-is-fixed-and-everything-is-fine-now ending. While Ness provides a bit more closure for those who want it in his short story, Snowscape (one of three short stories that take place at various points in the series’ continuity), the ending will certainly ensure that this book sticks in your head well after you read the final page.
Once again, Humphrey Bower’s narration excelled at bringing these various factions to life. Each character had their own voice, and some clever sound engineering gave the Noise (and the visual “speech” of the Spackle) an echo-y, distant floating feeling. The entire final section from Todd’s POV is delivered in this style, except for the very final line, which is clear and strong against a completely silent background. I’ve no doubt that his delivery is partially to blame for it getting to me so much.
To quote this book's main character,
stupid effing book.
Somebody hold me.
At least for the next four hours until I can get home from work and have a good cry.
Proper review coming soon, but right now, shout out to Humphrey Bower and the folks at Bolinda Audio who made that last section/chapter from Todd's POV all echo-y and distant except for the last "Cuz here I come", which was clear as crystal and made me tear up again.
Now I need to go compose myself before I face the public for the next three hours....more
I read Melophobia is a day. It’s a really interesting alternate history, the premise being that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to cope with the sexual revolution and events like Woodstock, the US government began the War on Moral Decay. All types of creativity, such as music, film and art, are illegal, except for government-approved material. Those arrested for either obtaining or creating illegal art are sent to re-education facilities where they receive treatment from Levels 1 – 4.
As with most alternate histories, we have a main character who starts to question the status quo. In this case, it is Merrin Pierce, one half of a police partnership tasked with bringing down The Source, an anonymous composer supplying music to all the various factions of fans. As Merrin gets deeper and deeper into her investigation and the musical world, she starts to question everything she’s been brought up to believe.
Merrin was a good character, though I did find some of her character development a bit rushed. Rowan, her main contact in the music community, had an interesting backstory that was revealed at a good pace. My main issue was with Anders, Merrin’s colleague and ex-boyfriend. He was possessive and stalker-y, and wouldn’t take no for an answer, despite the fact that Merrin made it clear she wasn’t interested in him anymore. Characters like this really bother me.
The world-building was solid and consistent though I would have liked to know more about what was going on in the rest of the world in this version of events. Was the ban on creativity world-wide, or just in the USA? Both the Beatles and the Who were mentioned among the bands that were reeducated – was the British government okay with this? Would U2 have really had to stay in hiding or could they have just gone home and been fine?
Overall, I recommend this book for fans of Orwell and the like – an entertaining what-might-have-been.
Initial Review: I read Melophobia in a day. I found some of the character development for the main character, Merrin, a bit rushed, and I didn't like her partner, Anders at all (though his character was at least consistent throughout, and worked for the plot). The alternate history and world-building were very good, though, and the plot was tightly structured.
My blog is on a hiatus for the Christmas holidays, but I'll get a more in-depth review up there (and cross-posted here) early in the new year. Right now I need to go do some of the housework I ignored in favour of reading....more
I imagine this book would be a marketer’s nightmare. It’s definitely got magReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 16 January, 2016:
I imagine this book would be a marketer’s nightmare. It’s definitely got magic and zombies and Immortals running around. But they’re running around in the background. This book is about the kids that don’t have to fight magic and zombies and Immortals, and have much more every day concerns like passing their finals. But! A reader would need to be familiar with the fantasy tropes Patrick Ness is referencing in order to get a lot of the humour. So it’s a tricky one to put in a box. I did think it was quite entertaining, though.
I’m not sure that paragraph will make sense to everyone, so allow me to explain a bit more. Mikey, his sister Mel, and their friends Henna and Jared (and possibly some others whose names I have forgotten by the time I got around to this review) are the background kids in a town where weird things occasionally happen. They’re not the Chosen Ones, who have to fight the monsters, though every now and then they are attacked by zombie deer or witness a tall tower of blue light coming from the woods. They’re the other students at Sunnydale High School, just getting on with their lives while Buffy fights the vampires. Each chapter opens with a summary of what the “Indie Kids” are doing, and it slowly starts to all line up with what the regular kids are doing, too.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into this book. I’d only just started reading Patrick Ness’ work, and knew that a number of his fans had been disappointed by this one. At first, it did seem to be a fairly standard YA contemporary, closer to Fangirl than Cinnamon Girl in terms of how much I would enjoy it. However, Patrick Ness soon proves that even his “regular” kids are engaging and just because they’re not fighting literal monsters, doesn’t mean they don’t have their own battles to fight. The book deals with themes of growing up, family and friends, and mental illness, all woven into the plot without being heavy-handed about it. I will admit that I think the reason this book got four stars from me was because of how well represented Mikey’s anxiety was, and how much it hit close to home for me. Patrick Ness also once again created character relationships that I had never (or rarely) seen before in YA. The friendship between Jared and Mikey is basically platonic (they’ve fooled around a little bit, but Mikey essentially identifies as straight), but they have a very tactile relationship. Most YA authors would shy away from two boys touching each other and being very sensitive around each other, unless they were specifically depicting a gay relationship. It was nice to see someone explore the fact that people can have bonds like that without being romantically linked.
Overall I can see why fans of Patrick Ness’ other works would be disappointed by this one, but for me the characters were well-drawn enough to get a higher rating....more
After the enormous cliffhanger that The Knife of Never Letting Go ended on, I was relievReview posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 18 December, 2015
After the enormous cliffhanger that The Knife of Never Letting Go ended on, I was relieved that I was able to dive straight into the second book. Not that Patrick Ness grants his readers any reprieve; he throws us straight back in the deep end. There is a slew of new characters for us to get to know and new conflicts for them to deal with. While it’s quite different to The Knife of Never Letting Go, it was still an intense ride.
Todd and Viola have been separated and neither knows if the other is alive. They both have to trust the word of Mayor Prentiss, who has now declared himself President of New World. While he seems sincere in his intentions to create a new and better society, there are plenty of people who do not want to see him in charge when the new settlers arrive. While Todd is put to work taking care of the remnant Spackle population in Haven/New Prentisstown, Viola begins training as a healer under the formidable Mistress Coyle, who we later learn was a member of a powerful faction of women called The Answer during the first Spackle War. In retaliation to a new iteration of the Answer, Mayor Prentiss sets up the Office of the Ask to interrogate those suspected of terrorist attacks. People continue to get hurt on both sides, and neither Todd nor Viola know who to trust, but this is just the beginning; a bigger war is yet to come to New Prentisstown.
As with the first book, this one is quite long, and seems to repeat itself a lot. Todd and Viola are not running for their lives this time, instead developing daily routines that go on for the several weeks the book spans. Todd and Viola spend the majority of the book separated from one another, and Mayor Prentiss successfully plants seeds of doubt in both their minds about how trustworthy the other is. We get Viola’s point-of-view as well, and get to see both sides of the war for New World as it unfolds. To use a term so beloved by Tumblr users, a lot of the “feels” in this book came from knowing as a reader that their love for and loyalty to each other is still as strong as ever, but watching them struggle with not knowing for certain. Even when they were separated, their relationship is still one of the best I’ve read for a long time.
Because there was less of a chase going on in this book, and more time spent with other human beings, the side characters all felt like real characters, too. Once again, Patrick Ness managed to create characters that I found really annoying at first, and then made me love them (… and then kill them off, in one particular case, damn him). Mayor Prentiss is a much more impressive villain than Preacher Aaron was in the previous book (though I did have the issue of him looking like Governor Ratfcliffe from Disney’s Pocahontas in my head), and Mistress Coyle provides a good foil for him, though you can never be sure whether you trust her anymore than you trust him.
This book also ended on a huge cliffhanger, just when it looked like everything was sort of maybe going okay (even though you knew it wouldn’t, because there was still another 500-page book to read). I’d recommend having all three lined up and ready to go, even if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy them. Better to have them handy and end up not wanting to read them, than devouring the first ones and then flailing while you struggle to get hold of the sequels.
Initial Review: Is 5 stars too generous? I think maybe it is because the book is long and gets repetitive at times, but the character development! The character development! I want to wrap Todd and Viola up in warm blankets and take them somewhere safe.
I had this book on my GoodReads TBR for ages, then took it off during a clean-up (every now and then I go through it and weed out the books I’m no longer interested in). However, after listening to A Monster Calls (see yesterday’s review), I decided to give the audio version of this a ago as well.
Wow. It was intense. And difficult to describe, but I’ll give it a go.
Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown, one of the settlements on New World, a place where everyone can hear the thoughts of men, thanks to the Noise Germ. As far as Todd knows, the Noise Germ also killed all the female settlers, and Prentisstown is home to just 147 men (my number may be wrong, but it was around there somewhere). But just a month before his 13th birthday, Todd hears a gap in the Noise, which turns out to be a girl named Viola Eade, and this kickstarts a chain of events that lead to him having to run away from Prentisstown, an army hot on his heels.
Todd and Viola are probably up there with my favourite characters ever. They’re both stubborn, and somewhat fixed in their ways, but damn are they loyal to one another. Todd is basically illiterate (he can recognise letters, but putting them together to read words on a page is incredibly difficult), and a simple farm boy; for various reasons that I won’t spoil here, Viola has a much better education, and is also rather tech-savvy (there wasn’t much in the way of technology in Prentisstown), but is in a very unfamiliar place and dealing with a lot of awful things in a short space of time. Due to these circumstances, she and Todd sometimes clash, particularly early on, but they’ve only got each other. They save each other’s lives more than once, developing an incredible bond, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a YA series before.
The pace is very fast, and there is a lot of action. Patrick Ness does not hold back – there is a lot of violence and it is vividly described. Also, if violence towards animals will bother you – you should probably skip this one. I won’t say any more, but you should bear that in mind. The book is quite long, and sometimes repetitive, but for the most part, it held my interest entirely. I did find the villain, Aaron, a little bit comical. He tracks Todd and Viola doggedly, and always seems to be screaming “Toodddd Hewwwwitttt!” and bearing more injuries than any normal person could actually withstand without dying. Many chapters end with “Oh, no, Aaron has appeared again!” to the point where I was calling it beforehand and rolling my eyes when he made another appearance.
While the cover image I’ve got up there is for the Candlewick audio, I actually listened to the Bolinda version read by Australian actor/voice artist Humphrey Bower. He used a working class English accent that was perfect for Todd and the other inhabitants of Prentisstown. I have learned since finishing the book that in the printed version, many of the words are spelled phonetically (which makes sense with Todd’s illiteracy), the Noise is depicted in different fonts, and there are often pages with only a few words per line, or only a few sentences per page (which I guess is probably a good visual representation of the Noise). When I first heard about this, I thought it might have put me off, but I have since decided I’m going to check out the print versions as well. It sounds just as unique as the rest of the book....more
This book definitely has a lot good tips that every writer could benefit from. However, my main issue with both this and 5000 Words Per Hour was the kThis book definitely has a lot good tips that every writer could benefit from. However, my main issue with both this and 5000 Words Per Hour was the kind of "my way or the highway" approach to the method being set out, and the implications that you're not a serious writer unless you do all these things. Not to mention, the reasonably frequent mentions of the author's six-figure salary and ability to write four books a year, which I know was supposed to be motivating but had the opposite effect for me.
Also, while swearing in itself doesn't bother or offend me (god knows I have a potty mouth at times), when someone in the position of teacher or mentor, as Chris Fox essentially is in these books, starts swearing to get their point across, they lose some credibility with me. There isn't a lot of swearing in here (only four or five instances, maybe), but it was enough to put me off. ...more
The tone felt a bit lecturey at times, and there were so many links to the app, which is a bit useless for an Android user like me, but there were somThe tone felt a bit lecturey at times, and there were so many links to the app, which is a bit useless for an Android user like me, but there were some good points that I'll bear in mind and maybe look into adding to my own spreadsheet. ...more
this was fun enough, though not exactly mind-blowing. It did remind me how much I love 11 and the Ponds. I've been rather spoiled with the narrators Ithis was fun enough, though not exactly mind-blowing. It did remind me how much I love 11 and the Ponds. I've been rather spoiled with the narrators I've listened to on DW audio books so far, and Raquel Cassidy was not my favourite, but she did an okay enough job....more
(Thanks to Cassandra Page and Netgalley for a free copy of this book in exchange forOriginally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind January 11, 2016:
(Thanks to Cassandra Page and Netgalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review).
So, I have to get a confession out of the way first. Even though I knew that Cassandra Page lives in Canberra like I do, for some reason, I was totally taken by surprise over the fact that this book is also set here. Every time I recognised a location, I kind of stopped and squeed a bit. I’m sure people who live in New York or London are totally used to this, but no one ever sets books in Canberra, so that added a whole extra level of fun.
Lucid Dreaming centres on Melaina, a half-Oneiroi, or dream spirit, who works as a “dream therapist” to pay the bills. But when she treats a client whose dreams are inhabited by a nightmare creature, it draws the attention of the creatures’ master, who isn’t happy. When investigating leads to near-death experiences and her friends and family being in danger, the chase is on for Melaina to figure out what exactly is going on before her own, and others’, nightmares come to get them.
I really enjoyed reading an urban fantasy with supernatural creatures we don’t often see. As well as the Oneiroi (we meet a couple of full-blooded ones throughout the course of the book), we also experience their opposite, the Mara, and some other nightmare creatures.
I really appreciated the characters in the book, too. I’m all for a feisty character with snappy dialogue, but sometimes it wears a bit thin when every single event or comment from someone is responded to with a witty retort. The dialogue in Lucid Dreaming flows well and strikes a good balance in this regard. Dialogue also serves as a world-building device and as such it never got too info-dumpy.
There is an explicit sex scene about three quarters of the way through, which isn’t really my cup of tea. I think that’s the only thing for which some readers might require a heads-up. Apart from that, I recommend this as an entertaining, original piece of urban fantasy....more