UPDATE: Please find an Audible clip from Juliet Marillier's newest novel, Dreamer's Pool, on the original blog post.

Friday, 30 January 2015

John Lauricella - 2094

John Lauricella

It is 2094, and life has changed for humans all over the planet. The majority of humans are pretty much comatose, and the few on the run are dying out. Others are trapped in cages - and the overload lives on Mars. The question asked by this novel is whether life is worth it, and what people can be happy living with. 

If you're sensitive to mentions of sex, please do be aware that that's the currency of the majority of the world. There are few scenes that are explicit in a way (I mean, two SexBots having sex), but I'm sure you could skip those parts if you wanted to. For once though, sex is woven into the text, and it's gratuitous. Rather it's moving the novel forward, always keeping in mind that sometimes sex doesn't solve everything.

My initial reaction was 'Wow. This novel was really something awesome.' I would strongly recommend it for both personal reading, and as a school text. It's about time the high school curriculum got a shakeup, and this novel is just the thing to do it. The sex will bother some people, but at the same time, teenagers are growing up a lot faster these days.

For once the genre listings on the back were completely spot-on. It's 'fiction, literature and dystopian'. It doesn't read as a fiction, it reads as if the author has seen into the future, and brought back the true of it. Some others categorise it under sci-fi, which is reasonable enough, but there's nothing that we couldn't expect to see in the next couple of years.

The back asks me to 'suspend my disbelief' - I barely needed to do that. Given the news in the media at the moment and the way that some human seem to act, it's likely this is a step towards the future. I guess everyone needs a minion?

What I couldn't understand was why any humans were kept alive at all. The only ones seeming to reproduce are the Initiates, and even then, it's a product of genetic manipulation. Why keep trying to survive? That's a clear question that each person needs to answer for themselves.

Some people have faith, and that enables them to keep strong in the face of 'Discipline & Punish'. Others have their families, and a strong resistance to being broken up. But the world is a harsh place, and sometimes death is the only way out without losing yourself.

It's obvious that this book has been created with 1984 in mind, even if you didn't pick it up from the title. It mirrors some things, such as the failures of human decency, and yet gives the next thought of what Big Brother could be doing. 

Get out there, buy a copy, and read this novel.

While getting the novel's cover from Goodreads, I found this comment from the author:

"Mainly the risk is that the narrative's interconnectedness goes unperceived. For that reader, the novel is going to seem scattered and random. It should not be possible to misread 2094 in that way, as a haphazard, sprawling farce, but an inattentive reading could cause it. Especially dangerous -- to the book, to the reader -- is the cursory sort of skim-job practiced by review-writers. Rifling through the book quickly, reading just five or ten pages here and there then skipping, skipping, and moving on, would allow such a reader, particularly one not much interested in the novel's premise or subject-matter, to form a very wrong impression of how the book works and what it's trying to do. Add any strong bias to this scenario and the result is probably a disaster. "

I've been reading about author/blogger relationships this week, and this is really summing it up for me. I feel slightly put out that it intimates that all review-writers don't read the book throughly. After I read about the top reviewer on Amazon who reads 30+ novels A DAY I'm not surprised with having that opinion. 

Don't worry John and other authors! I'm not a reviewer like that, and that's why I tend to have extended wait times for reviews. Peace.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Nancy Young - Strum

Nancy Young

Following the sounds of a music only he can hear (and the only thing he can hear), a talented woodcarver finds, and crafts, two beautiful guitars that play by themselves. This isn't fantasy though - it's a realistic novel for someone who has played older violins - they gain a life of their own over time.

Something on the blurb on this novel suggests that it unfolds on a backdrop of war and religious differences, but those were the minor things compared to the people. It is the interactions of the people across the generations, and the failures of all humans in one way or another, that makes the bulk of the text.

The author fails to allow the reader to use their imagination. The author doesn't trust her audience to come up with the right details, and instead lapses into long descriptions of things happening and feelings that could have been shown. There were also so many analogies that I could easily lose track of where I was! For example:

"All heads and eyes turned to the main attraction next to the man, a vision in white luminescence like the first blanketing of snow on a virgin landscape, whose demurely downcast eyes lead all eyes below to the voloptuous, precipitacy draped bust-line where a thin line of moss green velvet ribbon delineated the fashionably cinched Empire waist while majestically lifting two wipe winter melon-like breasts, forcing them skyward."

In addition, the narrative is disjointed and confusing. I couldn't find a plot line, only the discontinuous chapters told from various perspectives and times. My unfamiliarity with the geographical locations only compounded my confusion. I didn't feel the changes between continents because I was too preoccupied with trying to remember which character was related to the others. 

What this novel was good for was re-broadening the variety of words that I have in my vocabulary, Sometimes it feels like the author has eaten a thesaurus. Instead I believe this novel is perfect for literature studies - the motif of the guitar, the differences in religion.

I think the author tried to do too much, and cram too much into this novel. I would prefer a chronologcial order, with clearer deliniations between the times and people than just a family tree. But I did like that there was that plan there. The only problem was that I couldn't remember all the characters' names...

This is not an uplifting novel, as much as the epilogue likes to suggest it. I found myself regretting getting involved with the characters, because it seemed like there was nothing to be gained from my interactions with the novel.

A disappointment as a fiction novel, but a key text that would benefit from literature studies on its worth. It's a good addition to any literature buff's library, and it would make a great text as a university study (if they ever stop promoting the old favourites).

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Antoinette J. Houston - Red Summer

Red Summer
Antoinette J. Houston

Red, or Rita, is just beginning to catch on fire. Not in the way that Katniss does, but in the real sense of the word - Rita makes flames part of explosive life.

The idea of the mutant abilities was interesting, and quite unique from other novels I have read. Taking the blood of someone unique, and then finding the genetic basis of it - right up my alley. I'm not surprised it only worked on children. Did I mention that's the field of my PhD?

Each of the main characters has those special powers, and it's not immediately obvious which they have. Rita manifests first, and refuses to talk about it. She's a 'raging black woman', which felt like it fell into a stereotype rather than Rita having her own personality.

Jason seems like a danger - I don't know why they didn't just kill him. I mean, it's a bit inhumane, but when you get someone who can break everything in one fell go from within a cell, it's just sensible! 

I struggled to work out what role Thomas played. Only his memories are useful to the teenagers, and I think they could have survived without that. He seemed to be aimed at providing a 'normal' perspective, and still he was the one who was hurt the most often, just for being himself.

I don't think that the blurb on the novel does justice. I didn't jump into it because I couldn't understand what the endless summer would be. I thought maybe I would see the same scene playing out over and over - but instead I got some powerful action scenes with tangible emotions. 

Did I mention that the cover is pretty awesome? It's very simple, but if you actually just look at it, it gives a strong hint for what is to happen. A match burning the wrong way...

What put me off this novel, and what might have changed since I read this early ARC, is some of the prose. The writing didn't feel 'tight' to me, in the way that some novels are. The dialogue could have gone with a little more finess, because it often felt like the words were superfluous. Something else that bothered me were the changes in tempo.

I'm willing to cut this novel some slack, since when the author supplied it to me, she explained that this copy hadn't been edited. I'm interested to see whether the next novel has evolved - and I think I'd consider reading it just to see what happens with the mutant powers. Are more of them going to appear? Are their children going to be 'monsters'?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Brandon Sanderson - The Emperor's Soul

The Emperor's Soul
Brandon Sanderson

Shai is a forger. She is able to make copies of things that are almost as good as the originals. In fact, she is able to make two copies of the original in a fraction of the time it would take a normal person to do it. But everyone sees her as a fraud, and a danger to society because she can only copy. Soon though, they find themselves depending on her.

Shai is a kick-ass heroine. Guts, glory, planning... in the most subtle way possible. Everything Shai does is subtle. She is determined not to be used, and at the same time, she is happy that she gets to do something so unique. Her master forgery is making a soul that will then rule the kingdom. And in fact, she is doing something that no-one else has ever done.

It's interesting to learn that there are fragments of a life, and then there are specific fragments actually make up the person's soul. It is the least noticiable things that make a person who he is. That's what this novella is trying to suggest.

This novella is worth reading more than once, so I would strongly suggest purchasing a copy you can take with you. I think that many of Sanderson's novels are filled with subtleties that only become apparent after reading more than once. 

I have seen other reviewers complaining that Sanderson has an ulterior motive, and writes too much of himself into his novels. For me, that's the drawcard that makes me want to keep reading. I don't care where the material came from, just that it is there, and awesome.

I read this novella directly after 'Legion', because I have them in the same physical copy. I found that this one overwhelmed my memory of the first, because it was just soooooo good. I only wish it was longer.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Karelia Stetz-Waters - Something True

Something True
Karelia Stetz-Waters

Tate is working a dead-end coffee shop job that is hanging on by the skin of its teeth. Little does she know that a stranger will come to change everything, and revamp her whole life.

The relationship between Tate and the beautiful woman develops easily, in a believable pattern that allowed me to appreciate the novel even as I devoured it. For some, it might seem like the sex came too early, but for me, it's really a reasonable portrayal of how things can happen sometimes.

The sex scenes are treated respectfully and realistically, which can't be said of many lesbian fictions, which seem to be written for love-struck idiots. Maybe that's a little unfair, but sex doesn't have to be earth-shattering and filled with bodily fluids every time!

I didn't have trouble following all the characters (like I have lately with my wandering concentration), and I felt like all of them actively contributed something to the narrative. The only part I felt a bit off about was Krystal and her dad's relationship. The rest of the subplots worked seamlessly into the whole though.

This novel is a more adult version of all those novels I love by Julie Anne Peters. It's a logical step up. It provides guidance for a new generation of lesbians who might come into their powers later. Unfortunately, I felt like the femme/butch dynamic might have been a bit pronounced, but I do admit that people that fit those stereotypes exist.

This novel is set in Portland, which perhaps is disorientating for some people with preconceived notions of how the city should be. For me though, it added to the setting in a powerful way that made the book come alive.

I cannot praise this novel highly enough. I read it all in one guilty work afternoon. I simply couldn't put it down. The two characters worked so well together, and the finish extremely satisfying. Love, love, love. If I can get my hands on a paperback copy, I will be one very happy reviewer.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Maggie Stiefvater - Sinner

Maggie Stiefvater

Cole is an appropriately tortured musician with the usual past of drug use and overdoses. The difference is that he has the ability to turn into a werewolf - but only if he uses drugs or gets cold physically. His love from the past doesn't believe anything of what he says about being clean. Torturing each other and themselves seems to be the way to go when you're on reality television.

Isabel is all I would hope for in a heroine. She doesn't take crap from anyone, and she has a firm position in life. Yet at the same time, she has underlying insecurities to make her real. She isn't as powerful a character as Cole though, despite getting equal air time.

I enjoyed that the novel was written from both perspectives. It kept the book moving, and didn't feel repetitive. I'm not sure I noticed a difference in tone between the two, but the feelings emanating out of them were distinct, even as they ripped the characters themselves apart.

The characters have flaws, they're the sort of people you'd expect to find in Hollywood. As far as I could tell though, none of them try to change. I had hoped from more from Sofia, and I just didn't get it. She doesn't show any character development, and I think that while that is reasonable, I just didn't feel comfortable with the way things were left - surely Cole and Isabel could make more of a project of her!

The action progresses almost effortlessly. The writing style is clean and to the point. Stiefvater has nailed the right mix between dialogue and scenery. Once one scene is filled out, you do need to remember what it is - she expects the reader to become engaged with the novel.

I put off reading this book until far after its publication date because I thought it was the 4th book in a series. Instead when I sat down to get through my backlog of novels, I discovered that it was a stand alone. There were hints to the past, that if you hadn't read the other novels, allowed you to pick up what came before - tantalisingly so you wanted to keep reading to see whether your suspicions were confirmed.

Is this romance? Sort of. but it's a gritty romance that makes you think you don't know how it ends, and that, for me, is the best part. 4 stars from me, simply because it's not a reread. But as a piece of standalone fiction, it's excellent.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Casey Peeler - Southern Perfection

Southern Perfection
Casey Peeler

Sometimes I am a right royal idiot in choosing novels to review. This was one of them. While the synopsis sounded super good, in reality, the novel was not what I expected. Perhaps I should have looked at the genre first. Even with that in mind, I didn't enjoy this novel. As I'm partaking in a reviewing release promo, I can't leave a negative review. Instead, I'll leave you to read the synopsis and give you the warning that's it's romance, and 3pm is just the time she goes home from school.

Life is full of choices: good, bad, and ones you can’t control.

Raegan strives to be perfect in every way. Varsity cheerleader, honor student, and proud granddaughter of Dover Lowery. By day, Raegan is an over-achieving high school student, but at three o’clock, her real work begins.

What happens when appearances are not what they seem? Will Raegan be able to hold on to her life as she knows it, or will she be left all alone?
All of these questions are answered with one night, one song, one story, and one boy.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Kristin Cashore - Fire

Kristin Cashore

Fire has an irresistible power against men. And some women. Her beauty attracts them, even as she controls their minds. Despite this power having been used negatively in the past, Fire is determined not to use it for evil - except that she needs to, to protect a royal family she is gradually getting attached to.

I felt like there could have been more 'meat' in this novel. Yes, it's only a teenage fiction read, but still, it felt like there were superfluous things that could have been better filled with more of an epilogue and detailing other things (such as what Fire actually did in regards to pregnancy).

The end for Archer was too simple. I thought Fire's reaction was completely overstated, and also inappropriate. She didn't finish the job she had started! Not to mention she continued to act stupidly after escaping.
Fire's philosophy of not wanting to hurt people is admirable. In fact, for me, I find it hard that she made the turning point so quickly and was able to use it to indirectly harm others. It's strange thinking of her power as a muscle. It gets stronger as she practices with it, and she becomes more adept at carefully holding things.

There are some things that don't become clear until later in the novel, although the truth of them are hinted during the novel. For me, this could have had more in it. Each thing wasn't totally hinted at, and I felt some frustration that it took the characters so long to get to the point. I'm not sure whether I enjoyed the flash-back type text or not. It was important for Fire's progression as a character, but its inclusion was not entirely seamless. 

  didn't make the connection between the 'Leck' in this book to the 'Leck' in Graceling. It makes sense, but I only got it because I had a quick look at other reviews to remind myself of character names.

I have read Graceling, and I believe I considered it a light read, and although I was enthused about it, obviously I wasn't that entraced. I picked up Fire at the same time, but just never got around to reading it. At the time that I bought them, Bitterblue had just come out, and it was all the rage with other YA bloggers. 

Monday, 19 January 2015

Shauna Reid - The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl

The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl
Shauna Reid 

Diet girl is too fat for the scales. No, really, so fat that even if she loses weight, she can't see it on the bathroom scales at home. Instead she joins Weight Watchers, watches what she eats, begins to try exercise more, and get herself out into the wide world.

I read the blog on which this novel was based years ago, in 2012/13. I loved the blog, and I believe I may have reread it once or twice. When I saw that Shauna had a couple of copies to send away, that ignited my curiosity to read the actual novel. I found myself let-down by the novel. Yes, it was formatted more nicely, yes, it followed a neat, linear plot line, but no, it didn't have the same immediacy and drive of the blog.

On to the story. Simply, this is a self-discovery novel about what you can gain from losing weight, but also understanding what triggers you have. For Shauna, it is depression that can derail her weightloss, and it's not even her fault.

The funny anecdotes, such as those involving the Mothership and the early courting with Gareth, were the highlights as always. Everything I say is going to be comparing it to the blog, so there isn't much I can actually say about this novel as a stand-alone.

Is this just another success story, which pretends to give sage advice about losing weight in a ploy to get you to buy it? No, it's a true story that is inspiring all in its own way, while not actually dieting, only being more careful with your lifestyle.

If you love the allure of a paperback novel, and you don't have the drive to read through the blogging archives, this would suit you to a T. If you don't want the paperback copy though, I don't think you need to buy a Kindle version - you might as well read the blog.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Brandon Sanderson - Legion

Brandon Sanderson

My name is Stephen Leeds, and I’m perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad. Steven 'suffers' from having multiple, well-informed hallucinations. Using those hallucinations, he is a quite sort after man for scientists and engineers alike.

If I had to put this book in a genre, I'd say Mystery! And I've just enjoyed a mystery novel... It's a fantasy that could logically take place in the real world, and that to me, could even not be a fantasy in the future. I guess that makes it Urban Fiction, with a hint of Mystery...

It's really fascinating how initially, I accept the hallucinations as normal, and unspectacular, until suddenly, you realize  the advantages of having specialists in each area. Not only can they advise him, they are able to take over his body to protect him.

What I find interesting is the way that the hallucinations interact. That they are all aware of each other, and that they are able to grow and change. I only wish I knew more about all of them. I am sure that each has a backstory that Sanderson has come up with.

As this is a novella, I struggle to say too much about it, just that it was awesome, and amazing, and please go and pick yourself up a copy today. This novella feels like it's worth reading more than once, just to pick out all the nuances in it. I wish it was full-length book.

My awesome partner bought me this novel for Christmas. She entirely got this choice right! I could not put this novella down, and I can't wait to get my hands on the second in the series.