Book Review

Book Review: Slipping

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Rating: 4 Stars
Date Started: 22 April 2017
Date Finished: 29 April 2017
Pages: 288
Genre: Various

Lauren Beukes is a fantastic writer, no doubt about that. Her stories are beyond imaginative and quite often disturbing in a way that left me feeling slightly uncomfortable after reading some of them. And I’m a hardcore Stephen King fan, so that’s saying quite a lot in my opinion!

Although this is the first time I’ve actually read any of her writing (except for Survivor’s Club), I’ve been assured that she can pretty much be counted on to deliver when it comes to a craving for WTF creepy stories. And I must say that even though I was super disturbed by most of these, I’m really looking forward to reading more of her work now! I know, I know… I’m asking to be traumatized!

It is extremely clear from these stories that LB is a feminist and believes in equity and diversity. In fact, sometimes it felt like the emphasis on diverse characters and their respective characteristics were a little over pronounced and shoved in your face instead of just treating it like it’s normal. But then again that might just be my white privilege poking it’s head out again… Something I’ve noticed about myself is that I enjoy stories with diverse characters where a big deal isn’t made of the fact that they’re diverse. That’s my fantasy I guess, and upon closer inspection it might actually be a stupid one, because like it or not, prejudice is sadly still a big issue in real life. Sigh

Back when I fancied myself an author, I always felt uncomfortable writing from a POC perspective because I’ve never experienced what they’ve had to go through in life, but LB seems to have no problem with that and actually does a pretty good job of it in my admittedly naive opinion. I’d say about 80% of the stories are done from a POC perspective, and not once did it feel like just another stereotype. The characters were all believable, and if not exactly relatable, they came off real.

When it comes to content, there was a pretty good mix of ideas in this collection, though naturally I enjoyed the fictional stories more than the couple of non-fiction articles. Although the letter to her daughter gripped and squeezed my heart. It’s actually something that I’d probably read again and again, wishing that I had had a mother who told me these things, and hope that I can be a similar role-model for my son.

Most of the stories were almost dystopian in nature, but some shied just short of actually being that and actually represented the current emotional climate in a very stark and scary light. One story that jumps to mind thinking about this is Tankwa-Karoo, which very realistically portrays a possible outcome of some of the paranoia that is being spewed in social media these days. But then the last line of that story sticks with me too and gives me a little hope — as a member of the world population, but mostly as a South African. “This country doesn’t fall apart that easy.”

There were too many stories to review separately, but there was only one that I didn’t finish, and the rest I devoured… even if they did disturb the crap out of me. The title story was the main one that freaked me out, and I keep thinking of that last race and the lengths people will go to for fame and money. It’s not the only story in this collection with that same theme either, and you’ll probably notice a running theme of the greed of men and it’s effect on the world and other people.

I would definitely recommend this collection, though the recommendation would come with a warning… NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART

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Book Review

Book Review: Wicked Wonder

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Rating: 4 Stars
Date Started: 1 April 2017
Date Finished: 20 April 2017
Pages: 240
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, General

I really, really enjoyed these stories. Most of them challenged the norm, or what is considered the norm, and I loved the fresh perspectives. The stories themselves are very subtle, in that they don’t carry you away on a torrent of things happening. Instead they let you float along calmly, allowing you to lazily reflect on the surroundings. There’s a little bit of magic in each, and most of them will remind you of a childhood tinged in the sepia tones of memory.

Usually with a short story compilation like this, I’d add my thoughts on each story. There was quite a bit more stories in this book though and it would take way too long to discuss each story, so I’m only going to touch on a few that really stuck with me.

First was “The Education of a Witch“. Lizzy is a very young girl that identified more with Maleficent than Sleeping Beauty, recognizing the treatment that might have pushed the witch to act as she did. She was more entranced by the fact that Maleficent was independent and could turn into a dragon than that Sleeping Beauty was pretty and got to marry a prince. Lizzy has a keen insight into how people tend to treat anyone who doesn’t conform to expectations, and even though she was really young, she had more courage than me as she challenged these behaviors. It would be awesome reading more about her and what she grew up to be!

Sponda the Suet Girl and the Secret of the French Pearl” is a mouthful of a title, but it perfectly suits the story as there’s lots of yummy sounding foods and puddings! The story is about a thief and the “wizard” and her lady love who gives him his comeuppance by using wit and sleigh of hand. I think this was supposed to be high fantasy, but in reality it was more sci-fi as the “magic” was really just science tricks… the characters really made this story.

The last story that really stuck with me is “Woodsmoke“. It just kind of represented what I think an old time-y American teen’s life would’ve been like. Growing up, I was always so jealous watching movies about summer camp and kids getting to spend the whole summer’s just chilling by a lake and making friends and memories. This story had all that, but also an underlying layer of what growing up really is. There was the confusion as you develop and grow into yourself, the hurt of not being understood and accepted by those who are supposed to love you unconditionally, the blossoming of friendship and first love that you don’t choose but that finds you anyway… The end of this story was a bit WTF and just drove home the fact that everything changes and nothing is always as it seems…

Although these three stories are the stand-out ones for me, all the other stories were pretty good in their own right, and I’ll probably find myself thinking about them at some point in the future. Klages has a very unique way of telling a story that sneaks up on you and burrows under the layers of your subconscious, ready to pop up when you least expect it. She’s a great writer, and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more of her work.

Uncategorized

So it’s 4/20…

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Being 4/20, I thought I would try something new today. You might not be aware, but I work for a wonderful little place called Goodreads. I know right… dream job!

About a year ago, we started sending out a daily email that would make any book lover broke. You know what I’m talking about — the Daily Deals email. And every now and then, we have special big deals days. Of course, being the awesome company that we are, we have another big deals day for today 😀

I realize that not everyone might actually be signed up for Goodreads though, so I thought I’d share the love here. Check out some of these awesome deals:

$ 2.99
$ 2.99
$ 2.99
$ 2.99
$ 2.99
$ 1.99

These are by no means all the deals for today, so go ahead and check out the Deals page on Goodreads. But beware though, I bet you’ll find something that you just can’t NOT get!

Book Review

Book Review: All That Remains

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Rating: 4 Stars

Date Started: 15 April 2017

Date Finished: 18 April 2017

Pages: 353

Genre: Dystopia

I really struggled to decide on my rating for this book. It was very almost a 5 star, but ultimately I decided on 4. Here’s why

Pro’s
– The story itself was great, with lots of heart pumping action and edge of your seat moments.
– The characters were relatable (inasmuch as someone who hasn’t lived through what they had can relate to them.
– The characters were diverse, but it wasn’t treated as a big deal, which was really so damn awesome.
– The author drew no punches, but he also didn’t overplay anything. It was a gritty read, but only as gritty as it needed to be to tell the story.

Con’s
– So many grammatical errors!
– Ok maybe there was a bit of overdramatic scenes. Especially when anything with the “Walking Cancer” was in play.

That’s literally the only complaints I had. The grammatical errors weren’t that big of a deal because I had gotten the copy from Netgalley, so I know not to expect perfection. However the book was released in 2015, so I feel like these things should have been picked up by now and updated…

The story was definitely not what I expected. I think I had a lot of preconceived notions about this book because of the cover image, which now that I’ve finished it, I just don’t understand how it relates. While I knew this was a dystopia, the cover made me think it was going to be a YA frothy kind of dystopia. I put off reading this for the longest time because of that.

What it actually turned out to be was a gritty tale of survival against all odds. Of loss and despair and just everything going tits up. The world-building was expansive and vivid, and I could clearly see this aptly named blight that had struck the world, leaving it crawling with terrifying creatures from who knows where and people just trying to survive hour by hour. Sure, it’s all been done before, but “All That Remains” gets it right in it’s own special way.

The story was brilliant, but that’s not even my favorite part about this book. The characters made it all come to life in the most amazing way. Each and every one was unique, and even though you had your token bad guys like the hillbilly abductors with sketchy intentions, even they were real.

One of the main characters is a 50 year old black sociology professor, who’s also a badass zombie killer and provider for his friends. I think his race was mentioned about 3 times, because it just wasn’t a thing. It was normal. He wasn’t used as a lesson on racism or even the other extreme of a black guy being the bad guy, he was just a guy trying to survive like everyone else! Sure, he was super moody and egotistical, but I think we can cut him some slack for surviving so long. Also, there was that other thing that probably had a lot to do with his reactions…

Sara, the other main character, is what they call a scanner. Scanning is an ability that arrived with all the other crap, and basically means she can function like a radar to pick up if there are any threats around. Oh, she’s also a lesbian, but again it’s not really a thing. It’s mentioned a bit more than Kyle’s being black, but in a character building way instead of a tool to promote some agenda. Basically, she was beaten by her family and ostracized by her community (church) for being gay. I think it’s fair to say this will have some influence on your views of the world and the person you turn out being.

The other two main characters are Tim, a teenaged boy who pretty much grew up in the new world and quickly had to learn to be grown up, and Kaylee, a 7ish year old born after shit hit the fan, but who grew up in a government bunker. Kaylee’s mom was a scientist who left the bunker on a mission that could end up saving the world, but unfortunately met with an untimely dismemberment. Luckily she left behind a handy flash drive found by our hero after they pick up Kaylee… mind you, the author never did say how Kaylee survived… hmmmm

I breezed through this story loving it all the way, and I would definitely recommend this to any dystopia lovers.

Get your copy of All That Remains here

Book Review

Book Review: New Boy

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Rating: 2 Stars
Date Started: 1 April 2017
Date Finished: 14 April 2017
Pages: 192
Genre: Fiction, Retelling

I’m just gonna go ahead and blame this book on the bad reading slump I’ve experienced these last two weeks. I mean there’s not even 200 pages to this book but it literally took me two whole weeks to finish! How does that even compute?

I can’t quite put my finger on what about this book I didn’t like. The writing style was impersonal and distant. Whenever I could bring myself to read this, I found my mind wandering and having to reread whole paragraphs. There was nothing compelling to keep my attention on the story.

Which is another thing that irritated me. This whole drama plays off in ONE DAY!!! I mean I get that kids can be dramatic and whatever, but are you kidding me? And especially considering that everything that the “good guys” do is so out of character, there’s no build-up at all! No slow decent into fiery rage, no carefully tended plans and scheming. Just wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am. Even allowing for the fact that this is fiction, it’s just hard to believe realistically.

The characters were supposed to be 12, but acted like 30 year olds, and not a single one of them felt even remotely real. Everyone was one-dimentional and superficial, even Ian who’s supposed to be the big baddie. O’s sudden snap is so sudden that it feels like two different characters, and Ian’s reasons for doing what he does is the stupidest of all and feels like it was just thrown in because… well because we need an Ian.

There was some definitely sloppy tackling of racism that felt completely out of sync with the rest of the book and like it was being forced down your throat. I get that the book is set in a time when race issues were on a tightrope, and I know that Othello (which I absolutely loved and of which this book is a retelling of) had it’s own share of race issues, and I know the author probably tried to make it relevant to today’s issues as well… but it just wasn’t done very well at all.

I read Othello in school and can’t quite remember any of the nitty-gritty specifics, but the story has stayed with me ever since, and I’m just really disappointed right now. I’m most upset by Ian, because Iago is probably one of my all-time-favorite villains, and compared to him Ian didn’t even make the radar. Maybe if we hadn’t been dealing with 12 year olds and there had been a couple more pages, it could have been better, but as a retelling this book just really didn’t do the original justice at all.

If you haven’t read Othello and don’t know what the story is about, I still don’t think this is a great read. Even trying to be objective and unbiased, I can’t find anything good to say here… which I’m really sorry about because I soooo wanted to love this book! I wonder if there are other retellings out there that can hold a candle to the original…

New Boy is available from Amazon on pre-order

Book Review

Book Review: In Calabria

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars
Date Started: 30 March
Date Finished: 31 March
Pages: 176
Genre:  Fantasy

Buy your copy now: In Calabria

I must confess that this is my fist book about a unicorn, unless you’re counting that one time in Harry Potter when Voldemort drank a unicorn’s blood to stay… well, whatever it was you’d call what he was doing…

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I’ve heard about this particular author and his most well known book, The Last Unicorn, and I actually have it on my shelf… but I never seem to get around to reading it. I’m sure you know how that goes…

When I received a copy of this from Netgalley, I couldn’t really put it on my shelf and forget about it though, so I started reading it promptly. I went into it not knowing what to expect at all though. I mean I couldn’t quite imagine for myself where a book about unicorns would go… There’s surprisingly few books about the subject out there!

In Calabria (which is the town where this story is set) introduces us to a grumpy old farmer that purposely keeps himself isolated for initially vague reasons. Enter the unicorn and you’ve got a fantastical story with some deep life lessons in surprisingly colorful language. I don’t know why, but for some reason I associate unicorns with purity and children, and reading about a unicorn in the same sentence as the sentiment “God’s burning asshole” was rather jarring.

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Bianchi is the crotchety “old” farmer, and while he vehemently discourages familiarity from all angles, once the unicorns and Giovanna enters the scene, we start seeing the real him that he’s buried deep inside. The problem is he’s so convinced that he’s unlikable and grumpy, that he can’t see past his own image of himself to explore the rest of himself. Which of course is where Giovanna comes in…

This book has everything from romance and unicorns to the mafia, and honestly, I would have rated it much higher had it not been for the fact that it was written almost abstractly. The characters were well developed and the story was enjoyable, but it just didn’t pull you in and make you live in the moment. Never for one second did I forget that this was just a story I was reading. There was no emotional pull, and for me that’s one of the most important aspects of a story.

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I’d still like to read The Last Unicorn, but unfortunately In Calabria left me rather underwhelmed, and I’m wondering if perhaps unicorn fiction is just not my bag of tea?

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