On the Other Hand: The Little Anthology of Big Questions

On the Other Hand: The Little Anthology of Big Questions
by Renée Paule

Title: On the Other Hand: The Little Anthology of Big Questions

Author: Renée Paule

Genres: Non-Fiction

Length: 216 pages

Source: GoodReads First Reads

Publisher: RPG Publishing

Publishing Date: October 1st 2014

Rating: N/A

Three years later, I am once again a First Reads winner. Unfortunately I was not able to finish this book. I actually did not get past maybe a third of it, I don’t really know.

I dove into a major reading slump in large part because of it, since I found it incredibly pointless and even depressing but felt the obligation to post my review. I think it’s safe to say that after three months I do not intend to pick it back up.

I am going to try and find other books that interest me, to see if I can focus on making reading enjoyable again. Other folks may find this book quite thought-provoking so do feel free to give it a try, it’s just not for me.

Read from Feb 3rd to –
GR Review

I would like to thank the author for providing a free copy of this book through GoodReads First Reads program in exchange for my honest review.

Our Future Good

Title: Our Future Good

Author: T.J. Kirby

Narrator: Simon Vance

Genres: Adventure | Science Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Length: 2 hrs and 47 mins

Source: Audible | Giveaway

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

Joe and Mary just turned 18 and they have to choose what their project will be.
Mary wants to work on NutriSuits but Joe wants to pursue a dangerous journalist career. Mary and Joe want to be together so whose drive will prevail? And what will that decision entail?

Review:

I have to admit right off the bat that I was not a fan of the narration at first, as there were some words I simply could not understand, no matter how many times I re-winded – starting with the first couple ones. Even one of the main characters’ name sometimes sounded as Joe, others Joel and others still Jay. So the enunciation was definitely not the best. I can only imagine the narrator’s age must be quite advanced, I don’t know.
However, Vance did the voices fairly well and the cadence he payed to the narrative maintained me interested, much more so than the story.

You see, I felt the entire thing was an excuse to dump a lot of interesting sci-fi concepts that the author had. They were interspersed with political agendas that for the longest time were muted, as well as a pretty immature romance. Not the relationship itself per se, but the way it was portrayed. Much as everything else, it was perfect. She is the perfect girlfriend, he is the perfect, motivated, passionate driven boyfriend. Also, even though they are only 18 they act as a married couple in many ways and I never heard an explanation for that.
Even the temperature was perfect during the entire time. And then they move to another place and everything is perfect and the people are perfectly happy and giggling and argh. It was just frustrating.
And then there is all this talk about how items and humans evolved but, again, it felt dumped without purpose.

So in a nutshell, even though there were thought-provoking issues being raised in the story, they were rushed and almost passed unnoticed and I felt they were definitely not the focal point. There really wasn’t really much to go on, certainly not enough tension to keep me interested. Even the only plot twist, I saw it coming miles away. And while the sci-fi was interesting it ended up becoming quite boring as it all felt pointless.

Disclaimer: I won this audiobook in a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Listened to from Aug 22 to Aug 23, 2016
GR Review

Kyrathaba Rising: Kyrathaba Chronicles, Book 1

Title: Kyrathaba Rising: Kyrathaba Chronicles, Book 1

Author: William Bryan Miller

Narrator: Christine Padovan

Genres: Fantasy | Post-Apocalyptic | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins

Source: Audible | Giveaway

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Aliens attacked Earth, forcing the few survivors to take cover in subterranean compounds. Technology evolved greatly, but the pending alien threat never ceases. On the contrary, it will only get worse.
Sethra and his companions seem to have found a way to escape this nightmare and plunge themselves into a separate reality. They are not sure what will await them, nor if it will be possible to help everyone they left behind, but they will definitely try.

Review:

When I started listening to this file, my eyebrow went up and then my forehead creased as I frowned. You see, as lovely as Christine Padovan’s pitch and diction were, there were a couple of things that bothered me profoundly: one, she would prolong the last syllable of what felt like every single line, making her voice sound sleepy or tired, mixed with a sort of imitation of Fonzie from Happy Days, and it was just immensely distracting.
Also, I was not a fan of her voices. Not only did the male ones lack masculinity but they sounded forced, like when you are reading to a child and you make sort of a caricature of what they would sound like?
Finally, her narrator voice would sound like characters’ voice, or vice-versa, especially when transitioning between dialogue lines and ‘X said’.
Switching the speed to 1.5X helped me stay alert, but on the other hand I am well aware I did not retain all the knowledge transmitted to me.
 

The narrative takes place in A3, a compound built underground because aliens decimated the surface of the planet, managing to kill a large percentage of the human race. In this community, people have implants and a bunch of cool tech they use daily. However, they are immensely ill from radiation poisoning and, at that rate, would not be able to survive for long.

Our main character seems to have a way out of the situation, a chance of survival, but only for four people, so he chooses those closest to him. Not going to be easy, because of the implants and other cool but very Big Brothery gadgetry which constantly monitor everyone. But Sethra and his best friend are very smart and manage to have their clandestine conversations anyway and go through with their plan.
 

I remember that it took me a while to get into the story because there was a lot of technical mumbo jumbo I could not get a grip on. While the scientific talk was extremely hard to follow, it somehow made things more believable, but it did grow tiresome after a point. That first dialogue and Sethra’s inner monologues felt endless, and there were several sections of the book consisting of only numbers and statistics. *yawn*

But then things started to get interesting. I did not quite get what the plan was to get away, what they were going to be immersed in, as was said, what exactly was done to make it possible to access that other world, but man… Aliens! Amongst them! That never gets old. Very cool.
I was sad that a character who had started to grow on me had to die so soon. But alas, it would have caused the others to make an awkward decision so that the plot could progress and we can’t have that, now can we?

Kyrathaba Rising turned out to be a blend between fantasy and sci-fi. In the so-called real world, there is the alien threat, and the danger of everyone dying both from sickness and an alien attack – and in the world of Kyrathaba our four characters need to learn how to survive in this foreign fantasy environment, while struggling to assess who to trust.
The two worlds are actually quite distinct and I enjoyed following the events on one just as much as the other.
I wish I could have witnessed the 4 characters’ development in Kyrathaba, especially their skills, and that I had felt more connected to any character at all. I have to admit I liked Grant but that’s about it.

This is one of those books I know I would have enjoyed much more had I read it as opposed to listened to, so I am rounding the rating up instead of down. Grudgingly though, because that ending… Yes, I know it is the first book in a series, so a cliffhanger is to be expected, but this was the mother of cliffhangers; I honestly cannot recall a book ending this abruptly. And I am unsure if I would have like it as much as I hope so because the fact is there were a lot of subplots.

Regardless, there were interesting plot twists, great action scenes, plenty of suspense and even a bit of gore. I have to say there were bits of humour which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Mostly, there was so much richness in the plot and world building that it deserved my full attention and ability to retain the concepts.
Or take notes on my Kindle.

I recommend that you get this book, preferably a printed version. If you consider yourself a professional audiobook listener, this version will be fine as well, if you can get past the things I mentioned earlier.

Disclaimer: I won this audiobook in a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Audiobookreviewer.

Listened to from Jun 27 to Jun 28, 2015
GR Review

Daimones (Daimones Trilogy #1)

Title: Daimones (Daimones Trilogy #1)

Author: Massimo Marino

Narrator: Jeff Hays

Genres: Dystopia | Mystery | Post-Apocalyptic | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hrs and 33 mins

Source: Audible | Giveaway

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

When we first meet Dan, he is about to be fired. That, however, is going to be the least of his problems. As he and his wife Mary try to figure out how to tell their 12-year-old daughter Annah what happened, bigger problems arise. They wake up one day to find they seem to be the only survivors in their area and possibly the whole world. What happened? What, or rather who, caused this? In this first book of the trilogy, we accompany Dan and his family trying to figure that out.

Review:

Let me start by saying I really enjoyed Jeff Hays’ narration. Finally, someone who can read a book and keep me interested in the story without unnecessary flourishes to the voice. The only times I found the inflexion odd was when Hays would read a foreign name, like a Swiss street name, for instance.
His voices were impeccable, to the point where I often wondered if he was actually doing the female ones or whether it was all computer generated. They were all very clearly different from one another, even the ones in the third part, where there were many more characters. I could always tell who was talking which, to me, was a breath of fresh air.
There were a few glitches production-wise though, like words cut out or repeated.

Regarding the story, the premise was very interesting. The book is narrated by Dan, our main character, and in the end we find out just why.
There are no zombies here, or other overdone takes on post-apocalyptic literature. This is a regular man, who has a regular family, faced with the entire annihilation of the human race. He is from the USA but the action takes place in Switzerland and France, which was also very refreshing.
While at times I felt the protagonist handled the situation with too much ease, the fact that he kept thinking stuff like he is being driven by all the blockbusters depicting post-apocalyptic scenarios helped.

I did think a couple of things were a bit too rushed, like immediately after returning home from watching the car crash in the highway he assumed his neighbours would be dead. As far as I can tell, there wasn’t a solid basis for that, yet.
Using the internet, and more specifically facebook, as a message as a bottle as the character says, to try and reach out to people, especially the way it was done, was nothing short but a strike of genius.

For the most part, this is not a fast-paced book. It is a story which could feature any of us common folks, so it mostly deals with how you would handle such a situation. The main character and his family are proactive folks who do the best to ensure the survival of their family for a while, while trying to figure out if there are any other people out there. They basically become pack rats, and one other thing that distinguishes this book amongst its peers was that the technology did not immediately fail. They had internet access for months I think, and electricity never failed. Not sure how believable that is, although a lot in our world is automated, so it’s not completely implausible, I think.

I felt completely enthralled during some specific scenes, like the one with the dogs dominance conflict, or when nature is described as taking over the landscape. I especially treasured the normalcy of it all, as if it could happen to anyone.

Some descriptions were too thorough though, slowing down the pace, like when it came to guns – both at the armoury and then the training at home -, which did not even make much sense since we are told the main character does not know much about them.
And some passages were a bit repetitive.

I also have a problem with perfect characters. Dan and Mary’s relationship seemed flawless, which is especially odd since they are high school sweethearts and have been married for 22 years.
Mary is practically portrayed as the perfect woman and wife, and I did not much care for that. Other than that, there were a few things I wished would have been addressed differently:

I was not too happy at the turn events took at the end of Part 2. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel where there is one male and two females; anyone can see where this math leads. However, the way this was done did not impress me and actually confused me. Instead of everyone, or at least some of them, agreeing on it because they were mankind’s hope, it happened because of hormone-driven Laura, who we earlier found that absolutely loves sex, and would rather leave and be all alone than to break up the happy family by seducing Dan. Seriously? Way to put Mary in a crappy situation! I just thought there could have been a more decent and/or noble justification for it. Instead, I found Mary practically being forced to pimping out her husband very anti-climatic.
Also, I thought Dan succumbed to Laura’s seduction much too easily, especially after having exerted such self-control because he loves Mary so much. Even if Laura told him she knew, I would have liked him to directly ask her first. Well, men will be men, I suppose. But then I was even more confused because Laura threw a fit when she was with Dan yelling she was not a slut and had developed feelings for him. All that came out of the blue, I have no idea how either of them developed feelings for each other as it all seemed to boil down to lust, and I still don’t get why they preserved the polygamous dynamic after meeting new people.
When Laura got pregnant, I wondered why they were not looking for pregnancy books and how to deliver a child. After all, none of them were doctors.
And Annah. What did she think of her father basically getting a girlfriend? When she argues with Dan she tells him that he has mother and Laura and she has no one nor will ever have. And that was it. She was 12, wasn’t she supposed to be rebellious towards this new person taking her mother’s place? Confusing. So, in a nutshell, I felt that the change in the family dynamics, which was such an important part of the book, could have been better and more thoroughly approached.

In the third part, things took an abrupt change. A lot happened in a short amount of time and many characters were introduced at once. The information of what had happened was basically dumped. I did not find that very appealing but was ok with it for the most part. The biggest thing I wanted to have seen was a bit more connection to the events of previous years and more foreshadowing to the events later developed, other than the brief experience Dan had as a child.
For some reason, when I read the synopsis I thought the survivors had previously been marked. But their family did not receive such mark and yet they were spared. Which made me even more confused about how exactly the aliens managed to kill billions of people and yet keep those safe. It would have made more sense to me, even if just to simplify the genocide process, if everyone who survived was set aside by something the aliens did to them and everyone who did not have that ‘safeguard’ would succumb.
I wondered why Dan did not ask the Moirai why he was selected, what was so special about him amongst billions of lives. I wanted to hear more doubts about what was happening to them as a race, whether they really had any free will left. And I wanted to know more about the technology, particularly how they managed to move from Switzerland to Italy. Hopefully all that will be addressed in the second book.

Overall, I had a great time listening to Daimones. The author managed to take a theme which has been extremely explored and make it new because everyone can relate to bits and pieces of the world and characters. They may not be the most exciting ones but, hey, neither are most of the people I know, myself included.
Both the story and the narration were a great experience, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I won this audiobook in a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Audiobookreviewer.

Listened to from Jun 19 to Jun 23, 2015
GR Review

Clay (Halfskin #2)

Title: Clay (Halfskin #2)

Author: Tony Bertauski

Narrator: David Dietz

Genres: Dystopia | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hrs and 47 mins

Source: Audible | Giveaway

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

20 years after the events of Halfskin, people are getting illegal biomites (nixes), to escape M0ther’s radar.
However, the government is aware of this, so they created Bricks, fabricated beings entirely composed of biomites. They are capable of identifying the illegal biomites and shutting them down.
In the meantime, Nix is trying to give Raine a body, so that she can exist outside of his Dreamland.
Jamie might just be the answer to all of Nix’s problems.

Review:

First impression I got when I started listening to Clay was that the narrator had a very pleasant voice but spoke way too fast. Then he evened out to a more steady pace. Throughout the book, I still had to stop and rewind on several occasions to let the concepts sink in, but only at key moments.
I do have to say that I felt all his male and most of the female voices sounded the same (except for Mother’s); it was particularly difficult to distinguish some male voices from the narrator’s one, and for some reason all the women sounded annoying and whiny. This obviously caused me to lose interest in the characters. Or rather, I had to constantly remind myself they were not annoying and whiny, just sounded that way. I don’t even get why he did them that way. He obviously had the tone right, just the inflexion was not pleasant at all.

I did enjoy listening to the book most of the time. But I have come to the realization that I will simply never be able to pay as much attention and grasp the story as well while listening to a book as I do reading it. I was unable to set my own pace and imagine each voice the way I wanted, which was even weirder because I had read Book #1 and so had already formed most voices in my head. Needless to say they did not match at all with what I listened to.

Onto the story.

Clay continues to address several of the questions asked in Halfskin; one of the biggest ones is what makes us human? or at what point do we cease to be human?, amongst lots of fun/scary/emotional stuff.

Regarding the characters we met in the previous book: Cali and Nix falling apart over the years, as well as their struggles and rest of their character development, was all very believable.
I also enjoyed the development of Marcus Anderson. Amazing how religious zealots always feel their actions are justified, even if they are qualified as sins by their own definition.
And his end was so ironic.

I had not thought the technology in Clay could get much better than in Halfskin. I was wrong.
Glazed eyes when thought chatting, using facial recognition and browsing the internet in general.
Perception fields, which allow you to engage others in your feelings and thought projections.
Dreamland cafes, where you can transport yourself to a different reality.
Facial reconfiguration, the new plastic surgery.
M0ther having a physical representation and its sentience being developed in a total opposite way than usual – and her garden, oh, that garden…
Fabricating living beings from scratch.
And more.

The idea of a Brick is terrifying. They are not your ordinary robot from other sci-fi creations. They look and act like your perfectly normal human being, right down to showing empathy and other human emotions.

The addictive character of biomites was also something I enjoyed listening about. They don’t only enhance your skills; they also allow you to alter your feelings and emotions and, well, act pretty much like a drug. Can you imagine, never feeling sad or depressed ever again?

However, with all the good things, I just did not connect with this story as much as Halfskin. I don’t know if it’s only because I listened to the book as opposed to reading it. The voices thing really put me off, especially the female ones, but I don’t know if it’s just that. The characters just felt more vapid to me and I especially could not connect to Jamie and her emo attitude. The not dealing with emotions thing, wanting to shed her body and so on really put me off. I appreciated her character growth but most of what I listened about her wasn’t very engaging.

Also, the pace. In the previous book, whenever I was reading slower bits, I wouldn’t mind the reduced pace because the descriptions would be so beautiful and enthralling, and later I always seemed to come to the conclusion that it had all had a purpose the whole time.
In this one, I constantly felt not much was happening, without that sense of involvement and closure to even things out, especially in the first half of the book. It did get better after that.

Then there were things I just didn’t get, and I was left with a bunch of questions. Some were answered by the end, others weren’t. Examples:
How were Callie and others able to create this awesome strain of biomites but never solve the self-replicating issue of the old ones?
How exactly did Nix want Jamie to help him? For a long time I could not understand how the pill she swallowed related to finding fabricators, and I still think the explanation was too easy.
When and how did he even become a scientist, researching in the lab like his sister?
And how did he know how to transfer Raine to a body?
Why were the old biomites not implemented before 15 years of age and these didn’t have an age limit? The old ones had to wait because they would affect puberty but the new ones were seeded on newborns. I do not recall hearing an explanation for that.
Why exactly was the hospital shut down, or whatever happened that they could not help patients any longer?
How was the bank guy’s office safe from M0ther’s scrutinize?
I also did not get why Cali thought that by killing herself all bricks would die as well. As far as I remember all shut downs had been individual up to that point, so how could something like this happen, unless ordered by Mother? And I am pretty sure at that point she did not know it was Mother doing it?

There was some repetitiveness again, and then there were a couple of inconsistencies, like Nix saying Cali wanted to help Jamie because Avery would have been her age. Now I really suck at math, but I clearly remember Avery being breastfed when Nix was 8, so there is no chance she would be 19 when he was 39.
And we are told that before people needed to be 12 years old to be seeded, when it was 15.

I was not happy that the notion of being charred wasn’t explained until the second half of the book, and even then I am not quite sure I grasped the entire concept: is it derived to spending too much time in Dreamland, or working up biomites well past their limit, or not getting fed and sleeping, or all of the above?

I was pretty disappointed at the ending , and not just the thing with Cali. I had hoped Nix and Raine would exist in dreamland and have children there, but even if not, how the heck could a child be born without his supposed mother getting pregnant? Nix just imagined the boy? Doesn’t give me as much closure as I had hoped.

And one of the things I always wondered about was the matter of life expectancy. If the new breeds of biomites were no longer self-replicating, in theory this means people would be able to live much longer without the danger of being shut down by the government or dying from disease, right? Would that not lead to overpopulation? I would have liked to see that addressed.

So, with all these issues, why the 4 stars?
The fact is the book still engaged me. The plot twists, even if not as satisfying as the ones in the previous book, kept me on edge, and there were plenty of surprises.
Most of the development of previous ideas, tech, plot, characters – everything I mentioned previously – still held me strong.

In conclusion, despite having difficulty connecting to the characters because of the narration, I was still enthralled by most of the story and writing. I have no doubt I would have felt more engaged if I had read it, but I still enjoyed Clay very much.

And I am very curious to know what happens in the third book. I would especially like to see a more detailed explanation to Dreamland. Where did all that stuff come from, if Nix maintains it wasn’t all imagined by him?
Is there really an alternate reality?
Can one exist there?
As a human?
What does it mean to be human?

Tony Bertauski’s world is full of possibilities and I thoroughly recommend this series.

Disclaimer: I won this audiobook in a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Audiobookreviewer.

Listened to from Jun 07 to Jun 10, 2015
GR Review

Libertines: A Horror Story

Title: Libertines: A Horror Story

Author: Grant Palmquist

Narrator: David Winograd

Genres: Horror, Paranormal

Format: Audiobook

Length: 1 hr and 13 mins

Source: Audible | Giveaway

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

Samantha is bored with her sex life, so when she finds an ad in a magazine promising the key to spice things up, she proposes to her husband that they give it a try. The method consists on listening to a recording which contains subliminal messages. At first, everything seems great, until Samantha and her husbands’ desires spiral out of control.

Review:

This is the second book I listen to by this author and narrator. The premise is great: A couple in their early 40s try to spice up their sex life. Who wouldn’t want that? You love the person you’re married to, but the passion has been gone for a while now. That’s normal, right? Is it possible to have it any other way? An ad in a sex magazine says so. It guarantees so. It’s not much of a conundrum, is it? You’d give it a try, right? Samantha and her unnamed husband did.

The book is narrated by the husband and it starts off really well, with all the questions I mentioned above running through his mind. I thoroughly enjoyed that character because he was just darn average. He is settled in his routine, resigned that it is all he is ever going to get because that’s just what couples grow into after being married for a while, and when his wife suggests that they try this thing (sort of like Eve offering Adam the apple), he has serious doubts. He can’t be bothered. I thought that was very real.

The first few minutes after that, when they both start changing, were also quite enjoyable. I especially appreciated when the protagonist realizes that he is turning into something he is not very fond of but cannot seem to stop listening to that darn recording and following his urges because they are so new and exciting to him, even though he knows decent limits are being crossed.
I liked that Samantha wanted to go through those changes with her husband. When he does his own thing, he starts realizing that he doesn’t really know his wife anymore. Those bits were all very interesting.

But then the story started getting a tad too repetitive for my taste, especially whenever the main character enters a bar, and then all the blood and violence. But my interest in the story decreased most of all because it started turning eerily into something much too similar to Engel: A Novelette of Terror, the other novelette I listened to by the same author. That feeling of been there, done that persisted till the end, which didn’t give me much closure either.

The narrator was overall quite pleasant to listen to. Again, there were a few inflexions I wasn’t much of a fan of, but nowhere near as annoying as in Engel’s. I had the same problem with not being able to easily distinguish between especially the two main voices, and there were a couple of times when I wasn’t immediately sure if the story was being narrated or if I was listening to a dialogue. But some intonations were spot on, especially when one of the characters did something really bad and then acts all innocent. The repulsion felt by the other character was also very well achieved. Also, I can honestly say that I would most likely not have enjoyed the story as much if I had not listened to it; David Winograd did manage to get me engrossed in it, and turned something which could have been almost dull (to me at least) into a good paced and interesting narrative.

In conclusion: very good beginning but it starts going downhill after the middle or so. I will be rounding the 2,5 stars up because it is an intriguing concept and the narration kept me going. I sort of feel that I should have been more excited about all I listened to, but in a world where sex loses its meaning so easily, and it’s all been said and done, I really could not feel much. I should have been shocked but this sort of thing isn’t really new anymore. It’s the psychological effects of how the situation developed that kept me intrigued, and because of those I do recommend you listen to this story.

Disclaimer: I won this audiobook in a Rofflecopter giveaway hosted by Audiobookreviewer.

Listened to on May 28, 2015
GR Review

Engel: A Novelette of Terror

Title: Engel: A Novelette of Terror

Author: Grant Palmquist

Narrator: David Winograd

Genres: Horror, Paranormal

Format: Audiobook

Length: 1 hr and 42 mins

Source: Audible | Giveaway

Rating: 2.75/5

Premise:

Charlie is a pretty mellow guy who sometimes wishes people didn’t step all over him.
When he watches a commercial on tv encouraging him to kill his boss, horrors start to unravel.

Review:

I enjoyed Engel quite a lot in the first couple of chapters. Charlie seemed like an average guy with average struggles and I could actually relate to him. He wished his life was different but since he did not like conflict he never did anything about it.
Then we meet Adam, who in a way has a lot in common with Charlie but, unlike feeling tempted by evil, he has a very strong sense of faith.
And that is around the time I stopped enjoying the story as much. Charlie was no longer someone I had interest in see developing because there was no character development. His descent was way too sudden, as well as Adam’s ascent, and the ending felt extremely rushed.

David Winograd’s narration was overall pleasant, though I found some voice inflections a tad annoying at times, particularly in the first few chapters, when actions were enumerated. Others were spot on, especially when making evil thoughts seem so nonchalant. Who hasn’t wished the bad people in their life would go away?
I have to say I did not particularly like the narrator’s take on each voice, though. It was difficult to tell who was speaking at times – a character would sound like another, particularly when their emotion changed -, but what I disliked the most was that most characters sounded stupid, almost moronic. I get making ‘Seth’ sound like that but I don’t understand the others. Eddie was particularly bad.
So even though I enjoyed the narrative bits for the most part and felt engaged in the story, I did feel that the tone conveyed to it was almost one of mockery, and I wished it would have been more ‘sober’, at lack of better word.

Overall I had a good time listening to Engel; even if rushed, there were still some enjoyable concepts in the book, so I will leave the rating at 3 stars.

Disclaimer: I won this audiobook in a Rofflecopter giveaway hosted by Audiobookreviewer.

Listened to from May 02 to May 08, 2015
GR Review

A Death

A Death
by Stephen King

Rating: 4.50

I was directed to an url (Thank you, Kandice!) which featured a new story by Stephen King, A Death. So, being my favourite author of all times, I of course got to it as soon as I could.

I read the first paragraph and immediately thought to myself what a master this guy is. He is able to give such a clear picture of what is going on in such a small amount of words. Unbelievable.

Now I have to admit have never been a fan of old western northern american literature, but King had me completely gripped. The story still has the King touch I enjoy so much. The little details make all the difference, and as the narrative unfolds the subtle chill factor is all there. And it is amazing to see such a narrative unfold due to a hat. A simple misplaced hat.

Now the characters… Boy, the characters. I felt so sorry for Trusdale, I was absolutely crestfallen. I actually almost cried and felt sick to my stomach; that’s the power of King’s words. All the hopelessness really got to me.
At the same time, I could not help but sympathize with the other folks. There are no bad guys in the story, just people looking for justice. And as I am sure happened frequently in those days, the urge overcame the precision in getting said justice. The people needed someone to blame for a heinous murder and the hat did all the talking.

There is so much value to this story. It is scary how the people saw themselves so civilized. It is scary how no one had any sympathy for such a ‘dim’ person, not enough to stick up for him. It’s a different kind of scary than most of King’s literature but it is just as enthralling.

The ending took me by surprise but did not take away from the rest of the story in the least.
Read this while you can; it will fill you with emotion and be over way too quickly.

Read on March 03, 2015
GR Review

Billy Tabbs (& The Glorious Darrow)

Billy Tabbs (& The Glorious Darrow)
by Michael P. Michaud

Rating: 4.25/5

Imagine living your whole life as a homeless individual, starving all the time, just trying to get through the day, your only concern being the next meal. Imagine getting used to that because it’s all you ever knew, to being treated less than human, and then someone comes and tells you it doesn’t have to be that way, that you are worth just as much as everyone who passes you on the street and watches you suffer on a daily basis. Someone who actually wants you and tells you that you can belong to something.

The premise of this book is very interesting and thought provoking. Billy is a very believable character and you can definitely sympathize with him. He’s not a hero, he’s just a normal guy trying to get by. He has his beliefs and tries to stay true to them but sometimes it’s just not possible. I wonder if I would have done anything different, were I in his shoes.

Positives:

– The book succeeds very well in making us think about subjects that bother us. Why should we give anything to people who don’t work? Why is it our problem? Yet I wonder often how easy it would be to end up in such a place myself. Billy Tabbs forces you to put yourself in their shoes.

– The author does a great job portraying the atmosphere of adulation. How easy it is for someone as charismatic as Darrow to prey on people’s desperation every step of the way. He truly is a daunting character. And Totter is basically his extension in the brainwashing procedure. That dude really irked me and reminded me of several politicians and other people in power.

– For the most part it is an extremely well written book and there are very few typos, even in an advanced copy.

Negatives:

– The present tense in Lambert/Meyers chapters left me very confused at first. I think it was unnecessary; the different font highlights what is necessary well enough, and as the story progresses we can tell quite well those actions happen after Billy’s story – but that is a small personal preferrence which in no way affected my rating.

– Some things were unclear to me. Examples:

– Ever since the first couple of chapters, I wondered how exactly society was supposed to know what the group intended which such acts of mischief. They were pretty much only practicing crimes, never speaking out what they wanted. It never seemed obvious to me how such deeds could ever lead to anything productive and I always thought it was a matter of time till the members were arrested or even killed. It never seemed clear who or why those actions were being performed, even after the sketching of ‘Darrow knows.’ and the symbol – it could be anything! Yet it seemed completely evident to everyone in the group. In the beginning of chapter 12, Billy finally addressed this, asking Jacob how people could tell what exactly the group was demanding. The answer was absolutely noncommittal. He basically told him it was obvious.

– Then on chapter 12 it is mentioned that Jenny has a baby. One minute Jacob ‘lifted the shapeless form (…) carried the stillborn tenderly (…) for a moonlight burial and the next Jenny is tending to little Samuel? What happened? Was there more than one baby? If not, who or what was buried? What did I miss? It took me several chapters to finally find the answer to that. Not sure if this was done on purpose, but while I appreciate little clues lain around that I can pick up later on (like the fact that Darrow was the father), this was just not one of those cases, I wanted that bit to be clear, even if all the rest was left just as mysterious.

– I couldn’t get how Billy suddently got great fighting skills in the last few chapters, after the prison thing. I only remember seeing his thieving skills praised.

– I wasn’t very happy with the plot twist in the ending chapter. While I can appreciate the allegoric effect and how it will make you go ‘oh, that’s why that happened, or that’s why that was decribed in that way‘ and will definitely want to make you reread the whole book bearing it in mind, it completely reshifted the focus of the book to the point I felt the issues I find so important were almost belittled. It meant that certain things I would have like seeing addressed weren’t, like associations which help the homeless people and their limitations.

Conclusion:

I enjoyed the book structure. The two different fonts portraying different times and characters, the chapter division and titles – though I feel some chapters should have been further divided. And even though I think some characters could have been better developed, each definitely had their own voice.

In the beginning, I found the book mildly interesting, up to about a third or so. I have to admit I considered giving it 3 stars because it was good but something seemed to be amiss. The plot twist at the end explains why certain things were missing, but the fact is you have to wait till the end of the book to figure out why certain things were not (better) explored. So while a reread might be worthy of 5 stars, a first read warrants 4, in my opinion, because of that feeling that some important things were not explained.

The second part of the book was a lot more enjoyable than the first, partly because the above mentioned elusiveness was not so evident. Plot twist or not, the theme was a breath of fresh air in current literature, reminiscent of books like 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World and others and I for one am very happy to have had the opportunity to read this.

All in all, this book is worthy of a thorough discussion. Namely about how ideals can so easily be twisted, how people who initially have good intentions can turn into the very thing they hate the most in the blink of an eye, how scary it is to see the hypocrisy in place but not be able to do anything… and so much more related more particularly to the ending, which I will not mention so I don’t spoil the experience for you.

Billy Tabbs is actually two books in one – the first read and the reread provide completely different experiences, I am sure, both enjoyable in their own way (obviously I will be adding this to my to-reread list), so that alone makes it an unique book. I would be very interested in reading a sequel and think this is one author to look out for. I for one am now a fan.

Read this book. It will set the wheels turning in your brain, make you uncomfortable, excite you, sadden you, anger you and hopefully at the end of the day make you want to be more… human.

Read from October 31 to November 08, 2014
GR Review

I would like to thank the author for providing a free copy of this book through GoodReads First Reads program in exchange for my honest review.

A Lovely Machine

A Lovely Machine
by Amberle L. Husbands

Rating: 1/5

When I started reading this story I thought ‘ooh this should be interesting; when we read books about robots going smart we never hear about their end of the story’. But then…

A robot with a death wish. A human character who we know nothing about, really, so feels pretty fake. No cohesion, plenty of incoherences, repetitions, nonsense all in all.

I guess I must have missed the point but well, but this little emo tale kind of felt like a waste of time..

Read on September 11, 2014
GR Review

Fireflies

Fireflies
by Cory Archie

Rating: 4.75/5

I am still amazed at how enthralled I felt by such a short story, but it really pulls you in. I think the brilliance of it relies on the fact that it doesn’t even have to be placed in a too far away future. Given what is going on with the world today, it could happen in a few years time. You don’t really know because there isn’t much detail.

Usually that’s a bad thing, due to faulty writing but here… The writing is beautiful, you feel sucked in and even though the story is so short you get a very good notion of the surroundings of the characters, their living conditions, their emotions – despair, hollowness, lost innocence, lost hope, just getting through another day… I was so surprised at how much could fit in such a short piece, you know? This is true talent. The author created a very well defined world in such few words, enough to suck you in but to leave you wanting more.

And the ending… Wow. So sad. So beautiful. So… Absolutely brilliant. The perfect conclusion to the build up. I don’t think I have ever felt this way about an ending – it awakened something in me. I think… I think it actually made me value what I have so much more! Silly, isn’t it??

Anyway… I think it would be a waste for the author not to develop this story into a full novel. Amongst all the post-apocaliptic books, it stands out on its own and has great potential.

The only thing I don’t get is why one of the characters is presented as ‘Noel’ at first and by the end of the story he is ‘Noah’.

Read on September 11, 2014
GR Review

You can find this short story here.