July 6, 2019

I Am the Messenger: A Rambling Review

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

This was not the right book for me. I didn't particularly like Ed -- he made some very poor choices, and the way he just went right along with the "messages" demonstrated a certain lack of independent thinking. Plus, he tended to "intuit" a lot based on nothing, which seemed pretty ridiculous to me. I also felt like his inner thoughts and realizations were quite dramatic and pretentious, and that he and his friends sometimes talked in a much more poetic, "deep" sort of way than people would in real life.

The ending was a real cop-out, honestly. I kept reading (skimming, really) because the mystery was really what was keeping me from DNF-ing it. And after all that, the reveal was not worth it. Spoilers, highlight to read: If I interpreted it correctly, it was a "meta" sort of concept where the author was inserted into the story and he was the one sending Ed all the messages. Which, what? *shakes head* I did not read that whole book for that kind of an ending, sorry.
I mean, sure, the message about reaching out to others and helping them was good, I can't argue with that. (I can certainly argue with Ed's method about doing that in some instances, however.) But it doesn't make up for the other issues I had with the story.

2 shooting stars.


The Scorpion Rules: A Rambling Review

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

I thought the premise of this one sounded really cool, and I enjoyed the first part of it, but ultimately it didn't end up working that well for me. A lot of it was pretty slow-paced for a dystopian book (with the exception of a chunk in the middle where a whole lot happens), and it just went so *dark*. I know with a dystopian you can't expect all rainbows and butterflies, but a little more levity in some places might have helped. I also started to dislike most of the characters as the book went on — I found Greta's voice melodramatic in parts, I wasn't big on either of the romantic relationships she is involved in, and for some reason I really found Talis irritating (although maybe we're supposed to?). I would have liked to have seen more of Greta's relationship with her mother — we are only given a glimpse of that, and yet the premise of the novel hinges on a parent's love for their child. 

Admittedly, I took a break from reading it towards the end, and when I picked it back up again I just wasn't really feeling it. If I hadn't gotten most of the way through it already, and felt like I should finish it and write some thoughts on it, I'm not sure I would have. The last few chapters are definitely more interesting, since Greta undergoes a very important change (spoiler, highlight to read: she is transformed into an AI... weirdly, I think I liked her better with her AI personality/voice versus her human one), so my curiosity is mildly piqued for the sequel... but I'm not sure it's really enough to keep me going with the series. I'll have to check out the general reaction to book 2 and see how other readers respond. 

2.5 shooting stars.


*Note: I received this book as an ARC from the publisher for review.


Short & Sweet: Blackwood

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

This was such a weird story. I liked some aspects of it — Miranda and Phillips were likeable characters with a cute romance, and the set-up of the mystery was kinda creepy — but I feel like it became more of a muddled slog towards the middle. Some of it just got too over-the-top in what seemed almost like a parody of horror elements, and then one part of the villainous plot was just foiled so easily. Also, everybody who learned about the existence of magic/alchemy/whatever-you-want-to-call-it accepted it too quickly. Where were the modern-day skeptics to be found?

2.5 shooting stars.


July 4, 2019

Short & Sweet: The Light-Keeper's Daughters

The Light-Keeper's Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

Seriously, so good. The storytelling style really reminded me of Kate Morton's books (which is a huge compliment), complete with tragic storylines that are dramatic but grounded in characters that feel real. I did find some of the events/connections rather convenient, and the explanation for the mystery at the end a bit of a stretch that raised some questions (spoiler, highlight to read: Emily and Elizabeth were old enough to talk by the time the illness came along; wouldn't Emily have been super confused when she was suddenly being called "Elizabeth" instead?), but overall, I was just captivated by this slow unraveling of a mystery set by the icy waters of Lake Superior. This is the kind of story that just hurts your heart.

4.5 shooting stars. 

July 3, 2019

Short & Sweet: Mistborn

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

A very solid high fantasy read, with a thoroughly realized world. Sanderson pays attention to the characters he crafts and the world he creates, making both feel real and detailed and distinct. If I were to pick on something, it would be the pacing -- a lot of this book felt slow to me, with a good deal of scenes involving strategizing and dialogue when I wanted some action! Right at the end there are some exciting reveals, but I do think it didn't need to be quite so drawn out. 

I want to talk about a certain element of the plot, but I can't because of massive spoilers! Highlight to read: Kelsier actually died???? WHY???? He was one of my favourite characters! I loved his bravado and leadership and overconfidence and loyalty. NOT HAPPY with that development.

I liked the character development we see in Vin (although sometimes I thought it was too obviously broadcast to the reader) and hoping to see her continue to grow in the next book.


May 21, 2019

Short & Sweet: The Fever and Alias Grace

The Fever by Megan Abbott

About halfway through this book became pretty hard to put down! As the mysterious events unfold, the writing becomes more and more unsettling, with the style being sort of reminiscent of magical realism at times, making you question what is real and what isn't. I do wish that the ending had explored more of the purported cause of the events (spoiler, highlight to read: I feel like it would have been helpful for there to have been more details about the theory that the symptoms were due to mass psychogenic illness). Things feel like they get wrapped up awfully fast, and not as satisfyingly as they could have been. Nevertheless, Abbott adeptly conveys the mood of panic and paranoia that the community is swept up in as more and more young girls start showing alarming symptoms.                                                                                                                                                                   4 shooting stars. 

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

A fascinating re-imagining of the real-life Kinnear-Montgomery murders. It's a bit slow-moving as Grace begins relating her tale to Dr. Jordan, but soon picks up, and I easily became sucked into the story that Atwood weaves.

4 shooting stars.  

Beatrice and Benedick: A Rambling Review

Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato

As a story I found it quite rich and immersive; as a retelling/expansion of Much Ado I found it less satisfying. Benedick’s voice was believable as the original character, but this version of Beatrice did not capture the wit and energy of Shakespeare’s heroine. I also did not get the same sort of humour from it as the original play; there is far more tragedy than comedy here, and although both protagonists kept mentioning their “witty banter” I didn’t feel like we actually saw it. Their relationship starts and proceeds rather oddly, with an initial attraction on both sides which quickly becomes somewhat antagonistic for no clear reason. The misunderstandings that serve to separate the couple are truly Shakespearean in style, though.

That said, I liked how elements of Othello and Romeo & Juliet were woven into the story, enriching it with characters and plot points from these other Shakespearean works, which lent this expansion some authenticity. The writing allows the reader to easily visualize the settings, from the dunes of Messina to the despair-filled days on the open ocean. The hints in Shakespeare’s original play about Beatrice and Benedick’s history make this a storyline just waiting to be explored; however, this realization of that mystery is not what I had expected (or probably would have chosen, to be honest.) 

The afterword sheds some light on one of the side characters and informs the reader of an intriguing theory about Shakespeare that I had never heard of! This also helps to clarify some of the choices made in this retelling.

4 shooting stars.


March 31, 2019

The Ring and the Crown: A Rambling Review

The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
I actually enjoyed this one more than I was expecting to! Which is not to say that it’s without its flaws -- the pacing is uneven, with a slow build through at least three-quarters and then a rush of action and reveals and explanations (many of which were confusing and not satisfactory) at the end. I’m still left puzzling about some things that were crammed in to try to wrap things up. I liked the connection to Arthurian myth, but I think it could have been executed better; the author seemed to use the magical elements when it was convenient, but not really have them as a truly cohesive part of the story. 

That said, there was just something entertaining and easy about this read. I liked escaping to this world of shallow social climbers and court drama and people falling rapidly in (what they think is) love and plotting desperately to be together. Fluff, definitely, but it was mindless fun (which was needed given that I am sick at the moment!) I did have some trouble keeping the different narratives straight in my mind -- it hops around between five -- but the characters were not all nauseatingly shallow or selfish, and I particularly ended up rooting for Marie to get her happily ever after. 

3.5 shooting stars.

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