Wonderfully envisioned speculative fiction, I really enjoyed the story, however, I found the writing to be slow and the pace a touch plodding. I never...moreWonderfully envisioned speculative fiction, I really enjoyed the story, however, I found the writing to be slow and the pace a touch plodding. I never really felt like I was able to get into the flow. The use of two interweaved timelines that flow back and forth through the POV of Jimmy/Snowman was fantastic. Again, I love the overarching ideas enough to want to read more, but feel a dissatisfied by this book, like there's something I'm still missing.(less)
The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags is simply fabulous. A collection of short magical realism stories that hold together with a cohesive theme of beau...moreThe Evolution of Reptilian Handbags is simply fabulous. A collection of short magical realism stories that hold together with a cohesive theme of beauty, this work is exquisite on every level. Each piece is well plotted, beautifully crafted and full of unexpected twists. I struggle to select a favorite as they all spoke to me, singing in harmony to create a wonderful reading experience separately or as a whole.
From a critique point of view, The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags is a success not only in story telling, but also in craft and formatting. I found zero editing errors or misspellings, no odd turns of phrases or lagging pacing. In addition, the formatting is professional and quite beautiful. The author does an excellent job using the formatting to add visual interest to the stories. For example, in Mr. Happy the Sharpshooter, the inclusion of a riffle image at the section breaks adds a tone of menace to the story which enhances the entire piece.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to read this book. Short stories are an interesting and difficult medium and Ms. Lamaga exceeded on every level.
I received a copy of this book as a part of the vetting process for Awesome Indies. I have whole heartedly recommended this book be admitted.(less)
If You Could Be Mine left me gasping. The strength, the injustice, the love!
Sahar and Nasrin are in love. They live in Iran, and are girls. In Iran, l...moreIf You Could Be Mine left me gasping. The strength, the injustice, the love!
Sahar and Nasrin are in love. They live in Iran, and are girls. In Iran, lesbianism is illegal. Sahar remembers seeing men hung in Tehran as a child. Being gay isn't just frowned upon or judged, it's something you could die for. The options available aren't very appealing. Run from the country, become an exhile, and hope to get to Turkey where many LGBTQ individuals are granted asylum. Live with the constant fear of being discovered. Or take the drastic route of undergoing a sex change operation, despite not being transsexual.
When Nasrin announces her engagement to Reza, the older, smart, handsome medical student her parents choose for her, Sahar falls deep into depression and the fantasy that she can change her fate. Will she undergo a drastic surgery to keep the woman she loves from marrying another? Many have made this choice, as gender re-assignment surgery is not only legal, but state funded in Iran. This is an old, but good article about the trend: http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertai...
The characters in this books will infuriate you, entertain you, shock you and ultimately break your heart. In a world with no good solution, what's a girl in love to do?
Personally, I'm not only a huge advocate of LGBTQ rights, I'm also extremely interested in the Middle East, Islam and Religious Politics. This books has everything you could ask for. Political without being impersonal, activist without being preachy, entertaining without being dismissive. The author knows her Iranian history and culture (not surprising as her parents are from Iran) and displays deep sensitivity toward the turmoil inside Sahar's heart.
I was impressed by the authors ability to display some of the hypocracy of the religious police, the deep fear of discovery by the members of the LGBTQ community, and the gender issues women in the Middle East face every day.
The girls are deeply in love. Usually, I find the whole romance theme predictable and boring, here that wasn't the case. Their furtive kisses, heated exchanges and frustrated arguments all read extremely true to life. They are not yet 18, still children in some ways, trying to navigate a situation many adults can't manage, let alone with the added stress of being gay in a hostile climate. They make bad choices, act insensitively and for Sahar's part, she deludes herself into thinking a sex change surgery could fix things, if you read between the lines, it's clear she knows better, but she's desperate.
The secondary characters and subplots are fabulous. I loved the father and Parveen (a male to female transsexual who takes Sahar under her wing). The gay cousin, Ali, could have been a stereotypical nightmare, but instead, his boisterous behavior and underground dealings come across as sincere by products of his personality and situation.
I highly recommend this book. My only complaint is that it is at times too slow and some points are over simplified, however, considering the target audience of the book the choices the author makes are appropriate. An excellent read for teenagers, geared to make them think without too much explicit anything, and full of intriguing characters. This books is definitely intended for a Western audience and written in an American voice. The content is extremely harram despite the tame descriptions.
If you are interested in the situation for LGBTQ individuals in the Middle East, I highly recommend you check out "A Jihad for Love". (less)
Beautiful collection full of insight and grace. I'm overwhelmed by the talent of the author here. Thank you! Looking forward to finding more work by h...moreBeautiful collection full of insight and grace. I'm overwhelmed by the talent of the author here. Thank you! Looking forward to finding more work by her!(less)
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Dehumanized from the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way and no promise of a po...moreDisclaimer: I received a copy of Dehumanized from the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way and no promise of a positive review was made.
Disclaimer about Review Content: I received a review copy via Smashwords on Feb 1st 2013. I note the date because the copy I reviewed is a hot mess. The editing is atrocious. There are missing words, misused words, clichéd phrasing, strange wording (like “every so while” instead of “every so often”), and extreme passive voice. At times it reads like it was written or edited by a non-native English speaker! I contacted the tour company I received the book from and they indicated that the publisher was hiring a new editor and putting out a revised edition of the book. In light of their acknowledgement and plan to fix the errors, I’ve based my review on the story alone and not let the wordsmithing effect it. However, it’s important to note that the book as it stands is not ready for publication. If someone lets me know about when the final editing is complete and the new edition uploaded, I’ll remove this part of my review and update my star rating. The below review is written as if this were an ARC and the expectation is that more editing will be completed.
Review: Dehumanized is quite simply fabulous. It is the most unique werewolf story I have ever read. Set in a near future dystopia, Ryan Zachary lives in a world where werewolves are real. Not only real, but manufactured by science. Ryan contracted Lyconthropy from a bite he received one night during an attack. He lived, but he’s not sure that’s a good thing. Now Ryan and all the other werewolves in the area live in a concentration camp located in Eastern Canada. The prison is promoted as a safe haven for those infected, but in reality the inmates suffer from the extreme cruelty of the guards and inhuman experiments of the scientists on staff.
The cast of characters in the story are consistent and well crafted. Ryan is sympathetic, despite his many flaws and while I sympathised with the werewolves significantly more than the humans, I still couldn’t escape the thought that letting them back out into society was a terrible idea. There must be a middle ground. They are infectious, dangerous and during the Change out of control.
Loring’s ability to write from Ryan’s POV is fabulous. Despite the occasional head hopping, the story flows from one scene to the next seamlessly. I was uber impressed with the insight the reader is given about what it’s like to be infected with a disease that doesn’t just change your body, but brings another consciousness into your mind. Ryan’s relationship with his inner wolf was expertly depicted, to the point, I stopped noticing when they communicated, it became natural.
Dehumanized is a great read, fun and engaging. The light Loring shines on the prison system used in his world draws parallels to the real world. I don’t think this book is meant to be a political commentary, but it’s impossible to read about the conditions of the inmates of the wolf camp and not form an opinion about how prisoners are treated. The ethical dilemmas the book tackles, are pushed along, driven at a fast pace through a plot full of romance, violence, and some serious medical horrors.
I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book in this series. The main characters are fantastic, but the supporting cast is even better. Dehumanized has a rare breadth, tackling many subjects, many personalities, but never losing focus on it’s driving action based plot.
Do note, there is quite a bit of violence. The author’s talent shines through in his ability to depict the graphic details of the anger and violence in Ryan without losing the readers compassion for the character. Truly the most interesting and original were-book I’ve ever read. Kudos!(less)
Disclaimer: I purchased this book on Amazon.com. While I know the author through social media no promise of a positive review was made. Review: Inhale...moreDisclaimer: I purchased this book on Amazon.com. While I know the author through social media no promise of a positive review was made. Review: Inhale by Kendall Grey proved to be a surprising read. The reader is landed right in the middle of a conflict between the Elemental Fyres and the Sentinals. Words and Terms swim by with contextual clues only, but the world building is woven into the story line so well, the reader soon catches up. This is the first full length book I’ve read on my iPad and I was a little hesitant. In general I dislike ebooks, I’ve only ever read them on my phone and while the iPad is better, I still really don’t like reading that way. So it should be a pretty profound indicator of how good this book was that I could not stop reading. I took my iPad everywhere, even to my daughter’s gymnastics class, just to keep going. The premise of the book is simple in conception but intricately depicted. There is a place beyond the physical world around us where humans go to dream. The Dreaming is a place where the mind has power over the environment and it’s possible to access essential aspects of the self which are hidden or too vulnerable in reality. Ancient beings of demi-god like power called Elementals are banned from The Dreaming. They draw power from humans by accessing and siphoning off their life force. Almost like spiritual vampires. An ambitious Fyre has found a portal into the Dreaming and has invaded. She and her Elemental brethren are wreaking havoc on the human unconscious, causing psychosis and in the extreme even death in the real world. Concurrently, a woman who has the power of Lucid Dreaming is being called upon by the Sentinals – the sworn protector of The Dreaming – to join the battle. But what happens when a human falls in love with her otherworldly protector? An exhilarating read, INHALE doesn’t pause long enough to let you catch your breath. Every moment is filled with character, conflict and layered with meaning. It took me a whole to get into it. I mean, anytime the æ is used I resist the draw of wanker fantasy, but INHALE never jumped over that cliff, it maintained a pure purpose with consistently high quality story telling. The sex is hotter than a lot of the erotica I read, the emotions truer than a lot of the romance, and the danger more thrilling than many suspense novels. Grey does a fabulous job of keeping the reader engaged while holding enough out of reach to always leave you wanting more. At the end of the book, you are satisfied at having read a great story, the conclusion brings you to a natural denouement, but you still want MORE. I want to know about Zoe’s father who was taken by what her child mind thought of as “blue fairies” (Wæter Elementals?), I want to know what Sinnder’s deal really is, I want to know about the love story and where it will take us. At one point one of the characters was reading Carl Jung and I had to laugh out loud (scaring the giant dog, he’s such a wimp). I had already thought how much Jung would love this book! Kendall brings the theory of the Collective Unconscious into vivid reality. Plus, if any book has ever utilized the concept of Archetypes, it’s this one. But again, the skill shown in the word crafting is phenominal. Archetypes, but NEVER stereotypes. Insightful but never preachy. I highly recommend INHALE if you’re looking for a fun read with some meat to dig your teeth into. Grey respects her readers enough to leave us guessing, titillate our senses and engage our minds.(less)
Disclaimer: Although I know Anderson O'Donnel through the Indie Community I bought my own copy of this book and made no promises to him regarding a re...moreDisclaimer: Although I know Anderson O'Donnel through the Indie Community I bought my own copy of this book and made no promises to him regarding a review.
Fast-paced, visceral and closer to probable than possible, O'Donnell has created the best near-future dystopian Lit Fic I have read since The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Bio-Punk isn't a new term, but it's gaining ground and KINGDOM deserves to be at the top of the list of books to read in said genre. There simply aren't enough stars to communicate the impressiveness of O'Donnell's work here. He has taken religion, science, politics, theory and philosophy and blended them all together to create what is easily one of the most important books to come out this year. And I say that with all the humility of a fellow author who has written a Lit Fic that I wrote to try and do my part to change the world.
O'Donnell's writing is impressive in craft as well as scope. His prose weaves through the stories of three men, Dylan Fitzgerald, whose father was a US Senator who committed suicide, Michael Morrison and Jonathan Campbell - co-creators of the Exodus program. Each man's experience of the narrative is unique, but beyond Anderson's ability to capture characterization is the remarkable work he's done to write in completely different styles for each voice. Dylan's sections are particularly notable because of his use of narcotics, despite being written in third person the stylistic writing creates a world the reader experiences through the lens of the character in question.
Literary Fiction is often looked on as snobby. Those of us who write it take a small amount of pride in a certain academic or intellectual value to our work. Lit Fic isn't "just for fun." That's fine and dandy as long as you can still enjoy the story. Well, I can assure you not only is O'Donnell smarter than I am, he's a whole lot Lit Ficier. KINGDOM can be enjoyed as a sci-fi tromp through near future dystopia without worrying about the deeper levels of religious lore or political and artistic trends but here are a few things worth noting when you read KINGDOM:
* Tiber City pulls it's name from the Tiber River. I don't know O'Donnel's reason for this but I immediately think of Romulas and Remus and the founding of Rome. I'd love to know if that played into the narrative at all. * Obscure but prophetic reference to the punishment of Korah: "During their journey through the desert Korah, Dathan and Abiram revolt against Moses's leadership. God punishes the lot - the ringleaders plus 250 followers - by having the earth swallow them whole." * Assassin named "Al-Salaam" which translated from Arabic to "of peace" * Repeated and non-traditional use of the trinity motif, including a miraculous conception and 3 Kings wandering the desert in search of a savior.
O'Donnel's take on religion, the soul, the value of church vs. the value of community are all very complex. He touches on the corruption of the church system and magnifies it, introducing the reader to the CitiMart Church of Christ with a video greeting from a polished "Pastor Rick." While religious imagery and themes run deep in KINGDOM, I personally didn't see a criticism of faith or any particular belief system. Quite the opposite. O'Donnel has imbued his book with the necessity of a spiritual community, an internal faith that burns true without definition. Even the most hardened scientists of The Exodus Project ultimately have to reconcile their calculations with the existence of something outside of definition.
In addition of the beauty of the following passage, I hope you can see the truth. I do, I think part of my own emotional issues come from the same place as described here. Plus, who can resist a grover reference?
In Dylan's opinion, this trend - the embrace of the euphemism - only made the inevitable breakdowns in civilized behavior all the more atrocious. It was as though when the stark realities of life finally slithered their way under, over, around , and through all the artificial constructs man threw up, the strain was too great and people just snapped.
Inside the bleak depictions of an America gone mad, magnified and personified by Tiber City (which even has it's own little Coney Island!), there is a message of hope. The possibility of redemption remains and the existence of, if not God, a little something extra beyond our humanity that connects us and binds us to the divine, confirmed. KINGDOM is a heady book, a dense book, a book for thinking and mulling. It is also a good book.
Anderson O'Donnel has created in KINGDOM everything the Indie Revolution is supposed to stand for. A voice that otherwise wouldn't have been heard, a message which couldn't stay silent and an art that breathes new life into the stagnant waters of commercial publishing. The Hugo and Nebulous Award Winners have nothing on O'Donnel. Perhaps, he might just have something on them.(less)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
LA Sherman's Bengali Girl's Don't is one of the best books I've read t...moreDisclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
LA Sherman's Bengali Girl's Don't is one of the best books I've read this year. It's beautiful, lyrical and full of fantastic insight into the experience of Muslim children raised in Western societies. Sherman's writing is full of depth and beauty, pulling us into the world of the main character: Luky. I am reminded of What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin for it's raw intimacy and multi-generational/cultural storyline.
Bengali Girl's Don't is written in third person memoir style and the first half of it is exquisite, full of details from Bangladeshi life that resonate with the reader no matter your personal cultural history. Rahman and Sunia (Luky's parents) live through the revolution and partition of Bengladesh from Pakistan. The personal and political details included in the story make it rich and vibrant. An absolute joy to read.
Rahman and Sunia take their sons (I'm not sure how many, as one of them inexplicably seemed to have two names: Pilton and Saqir) and daughter to England, where Sunia gives birth to a number of daughters. Rahman and Sunia try desperately to raise their children as proper Muslims and Bengalis In their own way it's clear their intentions are good and they wish good things for their children. Cultural standards, aspirations for popularity and the crushing pressure of being the eldest daughter push Luky to a breaking point. Desperate for freedom and individuality, she seeks a reprieve from her parents strictness and abuse in a series of ill fated romantic entanglements. Finally, at only 15, her parents take her to Bangladesh where she is manipulated into an arranged marriage.
Unfortunately it doesn't seem that Sherman invested in an editor or had much outside help with this project, because despite vast amounts of raw talent much of this book is a hot mess. For example, there's a chapter where Luky's younger sister Salena is kidnapped from their home by Jamaican men, but then in the next chapter Salena is in the living room and no mention of the incident is ever made again.
I'm also unclear about the end of the book. It appears that Luky and her husband Hash'nuq leave Bengladesh for America, although this part of the book becomes so disjoined and confessional, its difficult to wade through the facts.
In addition to that, there's also the issue of inconsistent tense and writing style changes. Most of the book is in third person, however, periodically, and without warning, the reader is thrust into first person asides. It seemed at first that these asides were always placed in italics, but by the end of the book the regular prose had shifted, inexplicably, to first person. Also, there are what appear to be transcripts from conversation with a therapist interspersed in the text and even theatre style dialogue without descriptions for no apparent reason.
The use of these conventions is interesting and not necessarily a problem. I am reminded of Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min and how the book is separated by font and italics between letters, fiction and biographical narrative. With proper editing and story construction, Sherman's desire to write in this way could be a tremendous asset. It gives the book an unexpected depth that pulls the reader in further. Unfortunately, as it stands the reader is thrust into these segments with no warning, mid chapter and often without context.
Sherman's stream of consciousness writing is a delight to read and I sat, mesmerised by the story unfolding before me. Despite problems with the manuscript which, in a lesser book, would have me crying foul, I read the entire thing (that's 426 pages) in one sitting. As much as I recommend this book, and I do, I have to warn readers to not get your hopes too high for a final product. This is a brilliant draft of a potentially world class book. I only hope LA Serman takes the time to massage it into the literature it deserves to be.(less)
I first read Pure when I was working in a used bookstore in Brooklyn. It was around when the book first came out and I was able to get my hands on a G...moreI first read Pure when I was working in a used bookstore in Brooklyn. It was around when the book first came out and I was able to get my hands on a Galley Copy. I remember shirking all responsibility at the shop the day I found it in the New Arrival's section. It needed to be shelved, much like the other titles it had been packaged with, but I was too engrossed to bother with working that day.
At the time I was reading a lot of dirty literature and from the title I thought this was going to be a fun and titilating novel. I was wrong. PURE is about a lot of things. And when you first read it it's easy to think it's about a girl's coming of age. There's a lot of sex talk and even some sex (although titilating it decidedly is not). However, what PURE is really about is abuse.
The narrater (name is never given which is an interesting and successful choice) has grown up in a home where the father rules all. His abusive language toward the mother has shaped the way both children regard her and has turned them into tiny abusers themselves. In a home where nothing s ever right, nothing is ever good enough and eggshells cannot be avoided, the narrater has turned all of that hate and self deprication inward.
There is nothing about herself that she values which leads her from one bad decision to the next. Even the very first line of the book shows how she ust doesn't care about herself. "I was about 13 when I started letting the boys feel me up." From drug to domestic abuse, to dating a man 17 years her senior to self mutilation, the narrator continues on a path of self destruction which is not only tragic but within the pages of PURE is completely understandable.
This book isn't for the faint of heart, but it is brilliantly written. The slow boil and intimate prose creates a world where by the end you don't even know who you are rooting for.(less)
The Windup Girl was not an easy book to read. I've read a number of negative reviews of this book and while I don't agree I understand how this happen...moreThe Windup Girl was not an easy book to read. I've read a number of negative reviews of this book and while I don't agree I understand how this happened. I couldn't read more than 3 or 4 chapters at a time without my ears starting to leak gray matter. But please, don't let that stop you. The Windup Girl is both terrifying and hopeful, devastating and beautiful. The dichotomy of humanity has never been captured as well as Bacigalupi did in here.
I've talked a lot in the past about world building and how a quality book, especially sci-fi, doesn't stop at location. A quality book builds a world using history, anthropology, science, sociology, genetics, religion and politics. All of these factors exist in The Windup Girl and more. Bacigalupi tackles biology, evolution, family and the essential question of what it means to be human.
Strangely, the most human character in the entire book is the one who is considered to not have a soul. Emiko is a Windup, one of the New People, built and bred for specific purposes. The society of The Windup Girl is obsessed with Niche. Everyone has a place and in a time when resources are scarce and hope is extinct, clinging to ones role is what keeps order and sanity in an insane world. Emiko's Niche is as a servant. Bred to obey, designed to give and experience pleasure, her innocence and crisis of self is the most engaging of the plots. However, without the others her story would lack the context which makes it so powerful and heartbreaking.
While The Windup Girl is a fictional novel speculating on the future of the world if we continue to mess with the genes of our food it's one that feels very familiar. It isn't hard to imagine a world where rickshaw's replace cars because there is no fuel left, or where carbon emission allotments are sold on the black market to the highest bidder. The threat of a virus or strain of an illness which we cannot defeat is in the back of our minds already. Antibiotic resistant strep and recalled Cantaloupe already infect our modern world. Take that reality to the extreme and you have Bacigalupi's novel.
For my part I was exceptionally happy with The Windup Girl. It was a full story, that surprised and challenged with uncomfortable questions on the nature of humanity. Bacigalupi used every resource the writer has available, from research to religion to pure fantasy, to create something completely original. I highly recommend this novel to everyone.
Oh and because I'm an Indie Author and I'm so sick of hearing about typos I'd like to point out that this Hugo Award winning, Nebula Prize novel had a number of typos, specifically on pages 276 and 307. My favorite was: "The scooter slews to a stop and she hops down." Guess what word he meant. So the next time you find an error or two in a self published novel consider this before you blast it all over the internet.(less)
Zazen by Vanessa Veselka is a beautiful book. It's written with a lyrical prose and poetic license rarely found in modern Lit Fic. The plot is slow an...moreZazen by Vanessa Veselka is a beautiful book. It's written with a lyrical prose and poetic license rarely found in modern Lit Fic. The plot is slow and twisting, constantly surprising and subtle. Unfortunately Vaselka's expert wordsmithing doesn't manage to salvage the emotionless characters and inaccessible world of Zazen .
In the interest of full disclosure, I feel the need to tell you I went to Smith College in the 90s. I have some very real issues with what I would call "liberal fascists" and "opportunistic lesbians." I knew people just like Grace and Milo who lived off the grid and thought they were truly better than others because of it. I knew people who thought that being in an inter-racial couple or homosexual relationship somehow added credibility to your liberalism. Vaselka portrayed these individuals so well they pissed me off to the degree I didn't enjoy reading about them.
The problem though is they pissed me off so much I didn't enjoy reading about them! The characters in Zazen were flat and unengaging, constantly beating the same fascist drum disguised as enlightenment. I didn't care about Della's inner-turmoil. Instead of being relateable and tragic all she managed to do was annoy me. I felt no passion, no life, no reason to care. She was a cardboard cut out of a really interesting character. Extremely deep in thought and observation but lacking any emotional connection what so ever.
Even the intended love interest of Della held no passion, no meaning. Della is no better than my college roommate who slept with a woman so she had someone to take care of her and make her feel special until she met a man. The very kind of woman who gives bisexuals such a bad reputation. Perhaps someone this world is new to would find it alien enough to be exotic or interesting. Instead I just saw all the reasons I don't talk to many people from that time in my life.
At one point I put this book down and didn't come back for a few days, which if you know me is telling in itself. When I picked it up again I couldn't find my place and found that I could start just about anywhere and not feel like I'd missed some important part of the story of character development. The plot was simply too one-note for it to make a difference.
I do believe that Veselka is extremely talented. Her turns of phrase are exquisite. She describes Grace (the mother) consistently and vividly using some of the most poetic language I have read in a novel in a long time. The fact that I wanted to stab Grace in the eye with her fucking Frito Pie serving knife for being the single most selfish and pretentious character I've ever read about unfortunately rendered much of Veselka's beautiful writing void.
Here are some quotes from the book that really caught me. Vivid and beautiful, Veselka's style is evocative and unique. I can't wait to see what she writes next. Hopefully she will be able to find the place where beautiful words evoke emotion and engage you deeper in the story.
Credence sets his coffee cup in the sink where it turns into a silk moth, flies into a light mixture, and rains down in a cascade of ash.
Intentions blowing everywhere like dandelion seeds.(less)
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book as a part of Novel Publicity's Blog Tour program. I am a blog tour host for them but receive no compensatio...moreDisclaimer: I received a copy of this book as a part of Novel Publicity's Blog Tour program. I am a blog tour host for them but receive no compensation and only participate for the books I want to, there is no requirement for a review or a positive endorsement as a participant in this program.
A Line in the Ice by Jamie Craig (the pen name used for the combined writing of the erotica-super team Vivien Dean and Pepper Espinoza is a genre mindbender: Sci-fi, Fantacy, Erotica. The story weaves in and out of genres easily and without jolting the reader. This is how real life works right? When the neuroscientist is at work its not all heaving bosoms, but in his off hours... hells yeah! And there are real ramifications and consequences for the choices you make. A Line in the Ice manages to be realistic and believable while still having monsters and outbound ice science stations and phenomenal sex.
I won't go into the plot too much because the description of the book is spot on. What I will say is that this is a fun read, a fast read, and something that will make you use your mind as well as titillate with it's erotic scenes. I really enjoyed reading this. Questions of morality, personal responsibility, honor and love were all tackled in a fun easily digestible way.
An interesting thing that the authors did with this is they used a lot of Shakespeare. I have a theater background so all of the little asides and references really deepened my experience and enjoyment of the book. For those who don't enjoy or know Shakespeare, the inclusion will not diminish the experience at all, which again, is something which takes a tremendous amount of skill.
I did have a couple of things that bothered me about the book which I'm going to list, but I want to say I think these all have more to do with me than with the authors. Sometimes things just rub me the wrong way but my overall assessment of A Line in the Ice is that you should check it out. I think anyone would enjoy it. Men don't usually pick up erotica but I think they might like this one.
"Pussy" - I hate the word pussy. It sounds awful, like moist or sweat. It's just an ugly sound and every time I read it I lose any of the smexiness of the writing. However, I know a lot of people use it and it's fine and the author has the right to use whatever they want but to me, the sex scenes went from fucking-awesome to ewww with just one word.
Thigh hair - I do not find the hair on the inner thigh of a man sexy. Please stop telling me about it. Once was fine, but now it's making me giggle.
The Cover - The cover art is fine, but I don't think it's a good representation of the book. I'm glad they didn't go for the Romance style cover but I think it could be better.
Charlie (The MC) - In the beginning of the book Charlie is very hard to get a read on and her attraction to Lysander is difficult to believe. By the time you're into the story her character settles down and becomes really interesting and dynamic, I'd have liked to see more of that in the beginning.
All in all, this is an awesome book. I think it's really something special that arcs over what we've come to expect from women writers, especially romance writers. Hat's off to you ladies, I hope lots of people buy A Line in the Ice.(less)
I received this book as a pdf file after Nova Sparks sent out a general request for reviews. She did not ask me specifically and I volunteered. No pro...moreI received this book as a pdf file after Nova Sparks sent out a general request for reviews. She did not ask me specifically and I volunteered. No promise of a positive review was made, only an honest one.
the DOME is a rare find. I have been hunting for quality Sci-Fi for so long, it's hard to find anything that really pulls in the cultural aspect of alien races. I don't think I've read anything where the alien culture and characters were so thoroughly thought through and described since Lilith's Brood. Plus, the fact that Nova Sparks is a woman... This is not only rare but takes an incredible amount of talent to pull off. For the most part Sparks pulls this off with flying colors.
I want to begin by discussing the plot alone. The story line of the DOME is incredible. Told from the alternating points of view of Sam and Emma Tucker we are given a before, during, after and finally the unimaginable consequence of the end of the world. Layers upon layers of mystery, interpersonal interactions, romance and intrigue flow so easily together that the world of the DOME becomes real on the page.
the DOME Sam is Emma's father (this gives us a great relationship to explore from 2 different POVs plus the opportunity to experience the story from two different age perspectives - Go Nova!) Sam receives advance warning of the end of the world and does his best to save as many people as he can. Sam's group and others from around the world are taken to a distant planet (Syri) where they live in an enclosure which protects them from the elements and predators of their new home. During their time on Syri we glimpse that perhaps the Syrions are not as altruistic as they seem. Sam makes some upsetting discoveries and Emma finds herself having feelings for a Syrion teen which leads them both to believe there's something rotten in the state of Syri.
One of my very favorite things in literature is to read the interactions of two conflicting cultures. I love The Clan of the Cave Bear and Roswell for precisely this reason. It's also why, as much as I loved the X-files, ultimately it was just a monster of the week show and never captured my imagination. The culture of the Syrion race is portioned out slowly as fits the flow of the story. By the end of the book I feel I have an understanding (although not complete) of who they are as a species but I was not hit over the head with it nor forced to read 20 pages of fictional socio-bio-history.
The two main characters who we follow over the course of this book are Sam and Emma. Each chapter alternates POV giving us a 3-dimentional perspective of the situation they are in. Normally I hate this device because I get lost between the charaters or lose the flow of the story, never able to completely loose myself in it. Sparks manages to keep her characters distinct and consistent at all times. That plus the fact that she tells me at the beginning of every chapter whose POV I'm reading really helped!
Overall I would say this is a fantastic book that you should buy and read and enjoy. I lost myself completely in it, spending precious writing time reading, but unable to stop. However, you should know there are a few issues:
1 - the DOME needs an editor. It is not so bad as to make it unreadable but words like "mines" instead of "mine" and "you're" instead of "your" do happen and unfortunately it detracts from the experience of reading. Not a reason not to read, but be aware, there may be one or two things that pop out at you.
2 - the DOME needs to realize that it is NOT a romance novel. I don't need to read about someone's hard sculpted abs to get that he's vain and works out.
3 - the DOMEshould seriously consider removing it's sex scene. The intimacy that Emma experiences is beautifully written and completely in keeping with the style and flow of the book. However, the earlier scene with Sam and Kris is jolting and not especially well written. The writing is inconsistent with the rest of the book, both in wordsmything and in quality. I really didn't like the term "Indian Burn" anywhere near a sex scene, it doesn't work. - Also, the DOME could be marketed as YA without that scene and a few choice words replaced, worth thinking about.
4 - the DOME has some formatting issues. Not all paragraphs are indented and not all quotes are demarcated. Again, I recommend Sparks get an editor, these are small issues that detract from the book.
So my final assessment is that this is an awesome book and you should read it. It's better than 65% of what I find on the shelves at Borders and better than 90% of what's available via ebook. I would love to see Sparks invest in a line editor and take some time to clean up a few small things so that this could become the next great sci-fi novel.
I can't wait for the DOME: Revelation to be released!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Gabriel's Redemption from the author after I sent out a request for Indie Sci-Fi books to be considered for incl...moreDisclaimer: I received a free copy of Gabriel's Redemption from the author after I sent out a request for Indie Sci-Fi books to be considered for inclusion in my upcoming blog post on NYX Book Reviews. Umstead was not guaranteed inclusion in the review nor was a review even mentioned. However, after reading his book I would like to include it in my list of recommended reads.
Gabriel's Redemption is a near future science fiction work that includes all of the hallmarks of top quality sci-fi. Umstead has created a readable, accessible and highly engaging world where intrigue, aliens, drugs and intergalactic travel work together seamlessly. There is never a moment in this book where you think to yourself: well now that didn't make a lick of sense! Instead we are presented with a combination of real and imagined science that is so commonplace to the characters it never occurs to the reader to question it.
Evan Gabriel is a taciturn and troubled man who has buried so much of himself in order to survive the horrors and injustices he has witnessed that he has become a mere shell of the hero we come to know and love by the end of the book. Quickpaced, Gabriel's Redemption is an easy read. It flows from scene to scene and moment to moment flawlessly, always leaving the reader begging for more. By the third chapter I was so hooked I read the entire novel in one night.
Umstead deals with issues like honor, responsibility and human nature. While deep in thematic content the forward thrust of the story never stops. In this way Umstead has been able to create a rich, dynamic and believable world with a cast of characters who entertain and inspire. The bad guys are quality villains and the aliens are just strange enough to evoke the reader's inherent xenophobia. At the core of the story is one man's pain and regret and the opportunity to redeem himself.
1 - It's a military based fiction which I personally don't generally enjoy. Umstead does a phenomenal job of making the military jargon and topics accessible to non-military readers without sacrificing the details. It just doesn't speak to me. I was able to enjoy the story despite this which if anything speaks to the author's skill at weaving a compelling yarn. 2 - It's not in paperback. This is one I'd love to have on my shelf.
Disclaimer: I know Sherry Jones via twitter and email. However; I bought this book on my own with no urging from her (other than "yeah! I hope you lik...moreDisclaimer: I know Sherry Jones via twitter and email. However; I bought this book on my own with no urging from her (other than "yeah! I hope you like it!") and promising nothing to her (not even a review). To be fair, I do have a giant internet crush on her, which grows by leaps and bounds since reading this book.
The Jewel of Medina is a rare find. In a world of Twilight and Incarceron its a delight to find something which is both a fun, engaging, energizing story which also has depth. Jones' portrayal of A'isha, the favored and youngest bride of Muhammad, is both empathetic and revealing about the condition of being a woman during the time of the prophet. The pain of growing up in a society where you have no voice, but still possess the will to fight and be heard is felt in every passage.
The Jewel of Medina follows the life of Aisha bint Abi Bakr. A'isha is born with a sharp wit and exotically good looks and dreams of growing up to marry her childhood friend Safwan and becoming a Bedouin warrior. All her dreams and hopes change when at six years old she is betrothed to the Prophet Muhammed and confined to purdah (Seclusion of women, in this case specifically before marriage). The rest of her life is spent trying to find her place in her home, in her culture, and in Muhammed's heart.
Throughout the book we are given insight into what life within Muhammed's harim might have been like. We are introduced to each new wife as they join the family and change the dynamic between the wives. I have studied Islam, and this is the first time I've even been able to keep them all straight. Very little information is available about the personalities and actions of Muhammed's many wives, other than he had more than the four allotted to other men under Islam. While fictional, the behaviors and characterizations of each woman deepens the insight of the reader into ancient Islamic life.
The most impressive thing about this book in my opinion is the amount of research Sherry Jones clearly did. I'm not an expert in Islamic Studies and am not Muslim myself, but I have read quite a bit about this period in time. Jones takes the time to talk us through the exile of Muslims from Mecca to Medina, to detail what the political climate was as well as lay out the details of a culture so few understand in a completely relate-able way. I was personally impressed with her inclusion of the plight of the Tent People and the time she took to allow A'isha to grow-up.
While not a Romance novel, The Jewel of Medina, is deeply romantic. While not a history non-fiction, it is incredibly well researched making the novel accessible to those who do not know much about that time and still engaging to those of us who do. I thoroughly enjoyed being transported to another kind of life, in another time, through Jones' work and highly recommend you take the journey too.
Another Note: Some of you heard about the drama surrounding The Jewel of Medina thanks for Random House refusing to publish. Having read the book first hand I can easily and comfortably say there is nothing in their defense that makes any sense. Unfortunately, it strikes me as another in a long line of Anti-Muslim discrimination that only deepens the distrust the Arab world has toward the US. Not once in this book did I feel there was a negative bent toward Islam or Muslims. In fact, A'isha's struggles are not much different from the struggles women have faced in every culture throughout history. Where her story differs is that although she stumbles and falls many times, she comes through those struggles as a fully appreciated and confident woman.
I am shocked I hadn't heard of this book despite the profound success of The Red Tent which is similar in many ways. Religious retellings of the Bible and Torah have been incredibly popular; the difference between The Jewel of Medina and them is negligible in quality and creative license. Yet The Jewel of Medina did not receive the same kind of promotion or welcome. The only reasons I can think of aren't particularly nice. I'd be curious to hear your insights on that issue.
Disclosure: In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you two things: 1 -I received a free copy of this book as part of the good reads first copy p...moreDisclosure: In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you two things: 1 -I received a free copy of this book as part of the good reads first copy program. I was encouraged but not required to review (which I would have done anyway) and was not paid for my review beyond the awesomeness of having a copy of The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girlon my bookshelf 2 -I knew nothing about this book when I signed up for the first copy program. Quite honestly I was only interested in the cover art. I mean, be honest, it fucking rocks.
The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl is a seamless story of one woman's decent into cocaine addition. The book begins with Audrey Corcoran, the recently divorced mother of two who is just trying to keep it all together. Her dream of what her life should be has been shattered and the stress of living up to both real and imagined expectations is more than anyone should be expected to bear. But she is doing it. Her love for her children and dedication to providing them with a good life makes her relate-able in a way that I was frankly surprised by. Not only is Schuster surprisingly insightful but he makes his characters so real it was shocking to see that this story was written by a man. Yes, I know that's my own prejudice shining through, but he was able to articulate the emotions and pain of a mother in a way that I, as a stressed out over sensitive mother, am not. This, I believe, speaks to the incredible talent and empathy of the author and bodes well for all of his future endeavors.
Audrey is tempted, but declines, the escape of drugs multiple times before a new relationship (Owen Little) and external stresses convince her that it won't hurt to try. In a completely understandable, if not regrettable, moment of weakness Audrey submits to her desire for release in the form of cocaine. Schuster's choice of drug was odd to me, I was expecting Crystal Meth or something more mainstream, but cocaine proves to be the absolute right venue for Audrey's downfall. The road from casual user, to addict, to distributor, to overdose flows so easily it seems like common sense. As Audrey tells herself that this is stupid we are pulled into her emotional confusion and addiction so that even we, the external observer, begin to think that one more line, one more hit makes perfect sense.
By the time things have gotten completely away from Audrey and the consequences of her actions are so overwhelming I was so caught up in her journey that I found myself aching with the desire to save her. But as with all addicts, the only one who can save her is herself. The subplots of "Captain Panther" (I swear to god that's his name and he is equal parts annoying, sweet, lovable and infuriating), Melinda, and Goat Boy come together to create a three dimensional world in which Melinda struggles to survive but gets pulled under by the current.
In the end Audrey's life has spiraled so far away from when it began it's difficult to believe. Objectively the story is impossible. But when told with the smooth easy story telling of Schuster, by the end, it is completely natural. In this way I believe that The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl tells a story which is often judged and misunderstood: how life, the simple living of it, can push someone over the edge and into chaos.
I highly recommend this book, both from a literary perspective, because it is well crafted, and from an emotional enjoyment perspective. By the end I was Audrey and her pain was my pain and her struggle was my struggle. I cried as she broke and I laughed as she survived.
If a book has the word "Fairy" any where in its description I tend not to be willing to read it. God forbid its spelled "Faerie" or "Fae...moreI hate Fairies
If a book has the word "Fairy" any where in its description I tend not to be willing to read it. God forbid its spelled "Faerie" or "Fae." That just REEKS of pretentia to me and I want nothing to do with it. Why do I feel this way? Well there are a number of reasons most of which probably herald back to the days of dating a certain young man who would take me to role-playing events as "dates" (yes, you know who you are, you read this blog and I blame you entirely :)). But really it's because of the number of atrocious books out there on this topic. It seems near impossible to find a book that isn't either insipid or basically Tolkein FanFic.
But Stardust was written by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman wrote Sandman and Death. Neil Gaiman: who summed up my adolescence in shockingly accurate and fanciful ways. Oh if only my Sandman and I had knows we were meant to be brother and sister, so many things would have been easier! Neil Gaiman is a genius.
Stardust proved me wrong on every front. Gaiman has written a fairytale; a true old fashioned fairytale that has high stakes and lofty moral lessons. This is a fairytale with Faeries, Gnomes, mysterious parentage, witches and curses. And I loved every single moment of it.
There is not a single passage in Stardust that isn't expertly crafted or beautifully phrased. Never over the top, the language chosen for this story suits the mood and tone perfectly. Written in the style of cannon classics it took me a few tries to really get into the story. I felt like it was smarter than me and I was working far too hard. When I submitted to the simple story being told and allowed the words to flow over me and the tale wound itself around my heart, I was able to enjoy it. I was able to enjoy not only the story but the experience of reading it.
Stardust is an adult fairytale. As you know I am constantly on the hunt for real adult books that challenge and stimulate my brain. I like nothing less than a book that ends by pulling a rabbit out of a hat and calling it a surprise twist or a book that skimps over the necessary details just to cut it's raking to YA. Stardust does none of this. While there is sex in the book, it is neither racy nor inappropriate, it is essential to the story and Gaiman thankfully doesn't sacrifice the integrity of his story just to keep it PG.
A few years back Stardust was made into a movie which while I enjoyed is not nearly as good as the book. They changed a number of things, although I'm not sure why; the book as it is is plenty exciting and beautiful. I highly recommend Stardust even if you have seen the movie. The stories are the same enough that if you enjoyed the movie you will like this, but different enough it doesn't feel like a retelling.
Gaiman has once again shocked me out of my expectations and proven that often I am wrong. Stardust is a wonderful story and a beautiful piece of literature. If you are interested in stories or writing or fairies or love or... well, honestly if you have a pulse you should give this book a try.
Sefi Atta's Swallow is nothing like what I expected. This book has so many things going for it I was almost afraid to read it! Quality international F...moreSefi Atta's Swallow is nothing like what I expected. This book has so many things going for it I was almost afraid to read it! Quality international Fiction is hard to find in the United States, let alone to find one that has been well translated by someone who understands the culture, and then add on top that this is a book by a woman! It's like the trifecta of interesting literature! Atta's book has all of the sensitivity and character description you could ever ask for, but the plot leaves you wanting.
I have to wonder if the difficulties I had with this book aren't a result of the very thing I was excited about when reading it, authentic cultural literature. Swallow was well written with a clear, consistent voice. Tolani is a single woman, negotiating the changes from her parent's Nigeria in a small farming town and her own experiences in the poverty ridden urban area of Lagos. She is unmarried, but has a long term boyfriend who has been promising to marry her for over two years. She is quiet and well behaved, never moving forward or backwards, her life is stagnant.
In opposition to Tolani's good behavior we are given the character of Rose, her co-worker and roommate. Rose sees money and sex as freedom and is desperate to improve her station. She is opinionated and audacious, taking risks that Tolani would never consider.
In between the stories of the two friends are stories that Tolani's mother Arike have told her daughter throughout her life about how she met Tolani's father and life in rural Nigeria.
The characters we are given in this story and the vivid emotions of the three, very different women involved are fantastic. You can feel the authenticity of their stories. Swallow stops short of actually being a great book for me because while the plot is realistic and plausible (the temptation of drug trafficking as a means to escape the poverty of urban Africa) the throughline doesn't grab the reader. The male characters are shallow and uninteresting. I don't know if this is done purposefully in contrast to the main female characters or if it is simply a side effect of Atta's dislike of her own characters, but regardless there is nothing endearing about any of them. The one male character that you almost begin to feel for, "Johnny", disappears and is never given any depth. Perhaps these male characters are archetypes of some sort, used to teach us a lesson. I can almost feel that, but in the end it falls short.
The sub-plot of Arike's history and the struggles of being a strong woman in rural Africa is the most interesting part of this. The details of her childhood and trials of marriage are fantastic and relate-able. I would love to see Atta focus on this story and was impressed enough with her writing that I would like to try another of her books.
In the end Swallow is an excellent exercise in culture based literature, but a less predictable or more fleshed out plot are necessary for it to be something I would recommend. If you are specifically interested in Nigerian history or women in Africa than this is a great read, but if you are looking for a story with depth and universal draw I suggest you keep looking.(less)
I read to my children every night. One is six, the other eight. We have been through a few of the Harry Potter books, the Swiftly Tilting Planet serie...moreI read to my children every night. One is six, the other eight. We have been through a few of the Harry Potter books, the Swiftly Tilting Planet series and a number of other small books, but nothing has ever caught the imagination of myself and my two vastly different children like The Search for WondLa.
DiTerlizzi has again shown us that writing for children down not need to be simple or slow. His fantastical world and brilliant use of language is again a masterpiece. The Spiderwick Chronicles and Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles are favorites around here, so it's no surprise that when DiTerlizzi took us out of Fantasy and into Sci-Fi he would do it with the same flare as before.
The Search for WondLa is an engaging book on the level of plot. A young girl who has been raised by a robot in an isolated underground Sanctuary must leave her home and try to find others like herself. Along the way we meet animals, plant-life and intelligent creatures unlike any seen on Earth. Each new discovery is described in detail so that the reader feels they are there, but still with the simplicity and speed a child responds to.
The book is long, coming in at 496 pages (in YA spacing and format) but one chapter a night rarely was enough for my girls. They were always asking for more. There were many nights when I had to stop myself from reading ahead, just to find out what happened.
I recommend The Search for WondLa for any reader. This is an interesting and delightful story to read as an adult. In such contrast with all the romance and blood in literature these days, a new kind of fairytale was a treat to lose myself in. And for my daughters, DiTerlizzi never spoke down to them - never made them think this was a "baby" book, but also took great care to involve them at their level. An great example is at one point the narrative uses the word "tome."
"Do you know what tome means?" I asked my girls. "No," said the 6 YO. "No," said the Ninja, "but I think it means book... I mean, they're in a library right?"
As of yet this is the best un-dead rising book I've ever read. Others may have been more fun or silly but this one is simply the best. I don't know if...moreAs of yet this is the best un-dead rising book I've ever read. Others may have been more fun or silly but this one is simply the best. I don't know if it should be called a vampire book, a zombie book, a sci-fi book (in the purest sense in that it is an excellent science book), a thriller, or what.
The mythos intermixed with the biological viral thriller style writing is amazing. Here we have "Outbreak" meets "The Stand" meets "Bram Stroker". For anyone who wants MORE out of their stories then the usual fare, this book offers all the history, science and story you could ever want. It's a little slow but it builds nicely and gets you right where you need to go.
Enjoy! I can't wait for Book 2 THE FALL to come out in September!(less)
One of the best pure sci-fi books ever written. I can't believe I didn't know about her sooner. Everyone will find something great in this story. But if...moreOne of the best pure sci-fi books ever written. I can't believe I didn't know about her sooner. Everyone will find something great in this story. But if you love Aliens, Sex, Race Issues or Post Apocalyptic settings like me...you are in for a real treat.(less)