Friday, June 28, 2013

And this is why I don't like thrillers

The fabulous website Netgalley has me seeking outside my "standard" reading list. With the never ending supply of reading at my fingers tips, I don't feel the pressure to choose a novel for worth of the purchase. I can expand my reading palette. I enjoy a good dystopian novel that throws the philosophical issues at you. The Giver, 1984, Brave New World in the history of stellar literature out there are just a few of my favorites. When I read the blurb for 1984 meets Brave New World with a streak of thriller, it was kismet that I relax from the fantasy genre for awhile. Except I ended up coming back to I really do not like thriller authors. They try too hard.

Glass House 51 by John Hampel

Let me start this review with... this is not a bad story. I would recommend it to the die hard thriller fans (you know the ones who will read anything in the genre because it is their go-to read) and those who want some philosophical provocation. I have certainly read much worse that had raised my hopes for a great jaunt outside the fantasy genre. My bar may have been raised a little too high for this cybernetic thriller to ever succeed. Unfortunately, most of the time I was reading was a forced struggle to not shout "HACK THE PLANET" and "they're trashing our rights" while I mentally rewatched Hackers (one of the best technology cult geek movies of the 90s). 

The editing was atrocious, which did not help the poor author try to carry his point. I truly hope that the published version was able to smooth these blunders. My reading pace kept getting upset by misplaced words and verb tense snafus throughout a large number of the beginning chapters. As an English undergraduate and aspiring editor, this was a frustrated and painful read. 

The overall plot was quite nice and took some twists I certainly was not expecting (yet not entirely surprised that is the direction the author decided). The clues to impending doom and mayhem where rather ineptly hidden in the open. There were way too many moments when you knew the author was trying to foreshadow. Overall, it was also too long. Getting from Point A to Point B took too many chapters and detours through airy side plot. The fragmented histories did not tie well with the conclusion. 

Now speaking of the conclusion, it felt like a subtitled movie ending of "5 months later" and they all lived happily ever after. Not quite a fit for the this-could-be-our-future-devastation category it was slotted.

Here is to trying a yet another different genre!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Interesting surprise

While searching for the proper etiquette to submit critiques for the galleys I was receiving (and gaging the respect and legitimacy of the website), I stumbled across a great article in an author's blog. She laid out quite nicely how it works on her side of the field and what authors are really looking for when they relinquish their yet unpublished works to book lovers. I decided to look her up on Amazon and see what she had offered to the world of literature. The first book in her series was being offered as a free Kindle read, so of course loving the deal, I downloaded a copy. I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Branded by Keary Taylor

It is the first installment in the Fall of Angels series. A close friend of mine created her own genre to fit a growing part of the fiction market that doesn't quite fit into the teenie bopper category (nor do they want their characters associated as such). She named it "Young Adult for Actual Young Adults and not Teenagers" genre. I think it actually adopted the name New Adult Fiction in the library world, though. Fall of Angels sits in this category. The main protagonist Jessica is 20 years old. A refreshing age for the lead female to be.

Being not too separated from 20, I appreciate being able to connect to characters at that age. It is an excellent time of growth and experience. You are still stupid enough to pull off some of the major risks in life and young enough to not get hurt when it fails. The influence of your peers does not hold so much import as you create a new life and identity from your experiences and the lessons you learn every day.

Alright, now for the mixed bag of the review. The love story is reminiscent of all Twilightesque sappy love stories. Damaged girl meets guy well above her expectations, stunningly handsome, and hugely romantic. I indulge myself in these stories every now and again because everyone can dream (but when you read so many of them you start thinking the real world will drop one in your lap, you have hit insanity... and need a reading timeout). While not a fan of the overall sappiness, Branded had such excellent writing and overall motion in the story that I will be completing the entire series. (As I said, I indulge myself every now and again. Especially when Amazon has a package deal for $9.99.)

I loved the ending the best. I kept thinking "it's gonna be alright, everything will work out, but oh god there is like no book left, but no it has to be alright, but with so few pages left... aaaahhhh" as I furiously devoured the last chapter. Probably one of the best, most intense endings I have ever read.

Here is to some Orwellian thinking!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Slight detour through Louisana

In a small guilty pleasure break from my Netgalley readings (I ended up being approved by several outstanding publishers and want to give each it's due), I have taken a detour with Sookie Stackhouse. I read the first book roughly at the time the TV show came out as a recommendation from a friend who absolutely loved the show. Many of the series were already published so I was able to pour through them rather quickly. They are not in depth reads so I place them on my guilty pleasure list for both the romance and entertainment factor. The arc of the story had started to get a little off course for me around the seventh book; so I wasn't even sure I was going to continue until I heard that it was the end. I would at least like to know how it ended.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Ending the series at 13 books seems very poetic for a other-world murder and mayhem series. There is always a superstitious feel to the novels for me. While I had become bored with the town of Bon Temps in previous books for their continuous soap opera lives, I did appreciate the "realness" of the vampires in Harris's cannon. Who would be normal and nice after living 400 years? These are creatures that have the power to seduce their prey into a stupor to be fed from (if not killed). Of course they will be selfish and vain creatures (and they don't sparkle). 

While I appreciate the darker edge to the Southern Vampire Mysteries, I did not feel they were well done in the mystery department. It always seemed a bit obvious with the turns in the plot. (That could just be me, though, as I'm not a fan of the genre on most days anyway.) I do get suckered in by Pam and Eric the most I think. I enjoy his relationship with Sookie (it feels the most real-to-life with all its ups and downs and misgivings. Who hasn't had that in a relationship? They are not all puppies and bunnies.) However, I must say I felt completely wanting at the ending. The final chapters just seemed to die of fatigue. New topics and questions seemed to be presented in cliffhanger fashion more than an ending. Though, the last line was quite poignant and rang nicely.

After an angered search on Amazon, I see there is yet another novella that ties up the loose ends. Now I get it. Charlaine Harris you have turned into a money machine. Glad I borrowed your books from the library. Eek out the dollar of someone else because your stories were not worth it to me.

Here is to a Netgalley recommendation!

Monday, June 17, 2013

My new favorite website

NetGalleyNetgalley is every bookworm's dream. It is a website dedicated to connecting publishers with dedicated readers who have an interest in progressing the written word. Bloggers, bookstore owners, librarians, etc. are given advanced reading copies (ARC) of new authors or new series in exchange for an honest review and hopefully some marketing expansion of the product. Netgalley readers aren't paid, but give their time generously to help spread the word about great literature.

I am new to the whole social networking, blog world. This blog, in fact, started as more of a checklist/time keeping device for my goal to read 75 books this year. It does not reach wide areas of the globe (yet I don't think) nor have I spent much time trying to make it so. Still working on how to be that brilliant juggler. I am growing for sure. Netgalley has easily made achieving my book goal easier indeed.

I wanted to be able to read one of my favorite authors: Naomi Novik. She has a new Temeraire novel coming out late summer. I requested the novel without much hopes of getting it as a newbie to the site and without a big flashy blog. I was elated (there are not strong enough verbs in the English language at my joy) when I was approved. With my proof in hand, I devoured the pages. I sent over my 5 star review and will publish it on here in full when the novel releases. Now, I have decided to put more out there to do justice to my Netgalley rating. 

So I will leave you with this: PRE-ORDER your copy today! Now, get on it, hurry over to whichever bookstore you frequent.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dragons, Napoleon, and Incas, Oh My!

After receiving an advanced reading copy of Blood of Tyrants, I rushed out to get a copy of Crucible of Gold so I could properly be updated with the great Temeraire saga. I also stopped by to get a quick synopsis of the previous novels to make me thoroughly immersed in the Novik dragonverse again.

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

As always another great installment from one of my favorite authors. Temeraire continues to grow and introduce us to new worlds and new characters. The leading protagonists we have grown to love have further developed in character and history. With a very deserved reinstatement, Captain Laurence and Temeraire are able to reunite with the original formation. We meet some intriguing new dragons and reunite with some uncouth figures. The losses were felt, but seemed somewhat confusing. (How did that even happen? I demand the why! Mutiny from the readership at the lack of clarity) However, I have thoroughly lost track of the casualties of Napoleon's War as characters seem to leave the series with much haste and paltry explanation. 

While I felt the overall flow to be a little stumbling, it was a delicious read. I couldn't put the book down. The plot moved very quickly (and seemed to lack a little polish for such rush through the narrative) with plenty of action. In making up for the dreary travel over the Australian outback, Novik swung the pendulum a little too far. She had Temeraire's crew make even a dragon's flight hurried and I missed the charm of South America. 

I hate to have such a wishy-washy review, but the story just came out patchworked like its crew. The character development was brilliant, the plot came back around to the original core formation, but the actual narrative flow was severely lacking. I was happy to read another installment in the series (and very quickly at that!) since she is one of my favorite authors, though. So I would have to rate this book as worth the continuation to build up anticipation for Blood of Tyrants. I do hope that the next book does not feel so rushed and we get back to the brilliant writing of the first.

Here is to a guilty pleasure!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Stumped on my review

I am not sure how I want to review my latest read. It left me feeling pulled several different ways as a reader. So I guess I will start with... I did not enjoy nor despise this novel. I am Switzerland and stand neutral to its success and fame; a little leery as to why it has been so critically acclaimed.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The story will definitely tug your heart strings. It will certainly remind you that you are a fragile human susceptible to so many pitfalls. But, does it invoke the craving to read it again? For me, not really. When I feel that way about such a high-praised novel, I almost feel something has gone wrong with me; until I step back from the glitz and glamour and realize it is just another novel in the millions published that just happened to catch someone powerful's eye.

While a compelling story plot, the writing was chunky to me. Obviously, he is covering a vast expanse of time in a limited manuscript. There are better ways to smooth out the time flow in my opinion. I felt the dates at some of the chapter starts were random instead of a useful timeline picture that would have gone well with this "memoir" style fiction. After clunking along in a jalopy banging my head against the window, I did not even get the satisfaction of a conclusive ending. Nothing more than a brief sentence alluding to the future key to success and circular reference to tie father to son to brother. Disappointed.

It contains all the adolescent angst without the clarity and wisdom maturity brings. People do come to conclusions about their past misdeeds. It builds them up or takes them out. Hosseini's characters lack depth. We are given many flowery descriptions of Amir's angst, but little of his growth. We continuously relive his hardships but do not glory in his triumphs. Periphery characters are extremely two dimensional though they interact with the protagonist throughout his entire life. How tissue-paper thin characters made a compelling story lies only in the "actions" that most readers can relate to through a personal experience.

Now that I have probably blasphemed in the eyes of millions. I will add... I enjoyed the cultural aspect to show a side of the world I have never learned about but want to continue educating myself. I believe that history is a strong bonding unit. All countries should learn the histories as written by other countries, should read their culturally significant authors. Reading foreign interpretations of America has opened my eyes to many of the layers of history I learned about every year for 12 years. So at least this book has opened me to a new avenue and a new pursuit of higher learning. I will give it praise there. As a work of fiction though, it failed me.

Here is to the return of a favorite author!