City of Endless Night

Title: City of Endless Night

Author: Milo Hastings

Genres: Dystopia | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 256 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

After the first world war, Germany evolves to an underground, impenetrable city that the world outside keeps trying to defeat. One young man does not understand why such a war as gone on for over a century and will do anything in his power to change it. Going on this adventure will allow him more insight on such a society than anyone thought possible.

Review:

I have to admit I struggled with the writing on this one. This is completely different from anything I have read. The book was written in 1919 and I found the prose difficult to understand at times (English is not my native language), quite contained and very matter of fact. Yet, I still felt engaged. The book has strong politic and socialist components but it leaves room for more humane assessing as well. There is a bit of romance and enough tension of all sorts to want to keep reading.

However, right from the beginning there were things that irked me, namely how everything came together for our main character. As the narrative initially developed, things seemed to fall into place much too easily for him. He enters this world by taking the place of a dead guy who looks just like him and who happens to have his own personal biography in his pocket, after having had a life experience that would allow him to succeed brilliantly at his new persona. And everyone just assumes his lack of memory is due to gas poisoning. I don’t understand, was no testing done at the hospital to see he had indeed not been poisoned by gas? What about his tanned complexion? And he had to have an accent, even if he learned German from the age of 7. The guy admitted his vocabulary was more technical than anything! And then the right people seem to come across his path so easily as well, just the ones he needs, and who just spill their true thoughts to such a stranger, even though no thoughts are really allowed there.
All these questions and others bothered me throughout the story.

But the fact is it is a very disturbing one. The Germany described here is nightmarish in its potential to become real at that time. This book is astoundingly futuristic, in a way that I could not help but think how it all must have inspired Hitler. I mean, I was never much of a fan of History, but it seemed like the guy tried to replicate much of what went on here. That is so terrifying.

Although there were quite a few plot holes and I found the development of the story too easy for our main character, this is an amazing classic that everyone should definitely read at least once in their lifetime. Having just finished it, I am still chilled.

Read from Aug 28th to Sep 4th, 2016

GR Review

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
In a Fascist future where all forms of feeling are illegal, a man in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system.

Review:

By now, dystopian societies where people are not allowed to feel for the greater good is no longer a new concept. This movie came out 14 years ago though, so I can only assume it was pretty new back then.

Still, having that in mind, it was not very entertaining. Some plot twists made no sense while others were predictable, and there were situations where the main character put himself that there is absolutely no chance he could not get caught in such a society. He was allowed to do those things for much too long, for the sake of the narrative evolving to where it did. Even the new sort of martial art of fighting/shooting was quite beautiful and yet there is no way trained soldiers would just wait in line to be shot like that.

Equilibrium presents itself as a blend of Fahrenheit 451 and The Matrix and if you are big on action movies you will probably enjoy it. As I mentioned, some scenes really are capable of dazzling you. However, I do felt the plot could have been polished much, much more and in the end it was just another cool sci-fi, action movie. Extra points for the newness of the concept at the time and Bale’s performance, but that’s about it.

Equals

Equals

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
In an emotionless utopia, two people fall in love when they regain their feelings from a mysterious disease, causing tensions between them and their society.

Review:

The premise to this movie, although not new, was quite promising. A society where emotions are viewed as a disease and people actually do not question it throughout almost the entire movie made me curious enough to watch it.

However, it got overpowered by a romance where I could not even feel the chemistry. Kirsten’s face works well for the robotic layer of her character but when trying to convey emotion, let alone chemistry with her co-star, it just didn’t work.
Also, her excessive thinness and bags under her eyes truly annoyed me. Aren’t these people supposed to look healthy because they are free of pretty much all diseases?

Also, I have to admit, I dozed off from time to time. Granted, a restless night of sleep didn’t help but boy was this movie slow. There wasn’t even a climax, not really, no matter how high the director pumped the soundtrack’s volume up.

The first contact between those two should have been much more intense. Their reactions were pretty muted considering that supposedly they had never even touched anyone up to that point. Just holding hands should have sent sparks all over their bodies, being confined in such a small space and that close and all. Instead there was just a lot of eye, lips and hands close-ups and some panting but no actual emotion or passion that came across.

The development after the plot twist made me bat-crazy. I could not understand why the guy was running around, it just seemed ridiculous.

The ending was a major cliffhanger and did not satisfy me in the least.

I wish I had seen more of the dystopia, the world building, than such a major focus on romance.

It was okay but really, really slow and honestly not that interesting.

Blood, Ink & Fire

Title: Blood, Ink & Fire

Author: Ashley Mansour

Genres: Dystopia | Fantasy | Romance | Science Fiction

Length: 464 pages | 6224 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 1.25/5

Premise:

Noelle is different from everyone else in Fell. In a place where words are forbidden and no one even seeks them anymore, Noelle feels an urge towards them.
When she makes the decision of following that calling, can the ones she loves be safe? What will she find? About herself, about the world?

Review:

I understand many people loved this book so I will try to keep my review as objective as possible.

Blood, Ink & Fire starts out as your average dystopia: a society where individuals are deprived of freedom and has this incredible AI whose purpose is more than meets the eye. Quickly you get the feeling that this is an ode to Fahrenheit and Shakespear and book loving in general.

However, as a work of fiction, to me, it failed to deliver. Suspension of disbelief is taken to an extreme, dialogues and monologues are cringe-worthy and the narrative just doesn’t flow, being obvious at time and not delivering resolution at others.

For example, we don’t even know why people are ‘immersed’ on their 17th birthday. Why 17? Because it is convenient that our main character is that old when all the juicy stuff starts happening?

And the bad guys. They are supposed to be almighty and have full control and all imaginable resources to be anywhere, anytime they want and yet they only show up at convenient times?

Even the names are ridiculous. Why Fell? Other than it is one letter apart from Hell? Obvious much?
And Boolos as short for book lovers? Really?
Forgetsum?
Need I go on?

There is a lot of info dumping and yet no actual world setting. When do these people eat? How can Noelle drive? How can she run for ages, did she get any exercise in her previous life that would justify it? And it goes on and on.

Also, once again, romance completely overpowers the story from a point on. And it doesn’t even make sense. This Ledger guy sounds much too human from the getgo, for someone or something who is not supposed to be one of us. I didn’t even get what he was supposed to be.
There’s a lot of feels and yet I go through the book completely unable to connect to any of the characters, least of all the main one, who everyone seems to love, Lord knows why.

The book had potential. I thought the relationship between Noelle and John was cute, different, and not just because he was blind or they didn’t make romantic moves. Although the fact that they called each other by their initials never made any sense to me but I guess it was supposed to make their relationship more special. Then it just went downhill for me. Things started happening for the sake of happening and I was, quite honestly, bored.

There were, as I said, things left unexplained and others that made no sense like what happened to the twin who deserted the Risers, or Noelle finding herself in a room, alone, with a note explaining that the room only locks from the inside and she can use the key to let herself out. Wha…? Is this a whodunnit book? Nope, it goes completely unnoticed.

There were several interesting concepts, especially the importance of books and the dangers of this new age where people no longer seem to resort to them to obtain information or pleasure – supported by quotes of books at the beginning of the novel whose authors have studied this phenomenon and sadly I have to say that was about my favourite part, the inspiration. The development of the premise just left me disappointed beyond words.

Disappointing does not even begin to describe the ridiculous ending. Is it supposed to be surprising or shocking? It’s not. It’s just ridiculous.
If you are going to introduce a different concept you need to make it work, not just be lazy in the end. You have this guy who isn’t a guy but sort of the memory of books. He has a mission. She has a mission. Find 9 books which will somehow lead to the location of this special, amazing place, although it is never clear what is supposed to be done when it is found. HOW?? How on Earth was that supposed to happen? How does it work? She reads all 9 volumes and something clicks? Are there hidden clues in each of the volume? How??
Also, for a thing that is supposed to be special, there were numerous opportunities to shake the reader with the wonderful act of reading and yet I only even remotely felt it once that I recall and even that lacked a good amount of emotion.

So even though most of this book waived between a 2 and a 3, by the end it just went down to 1. What a total waste of time.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Jun 19 to Jun 24, 2016
GR Review

Broken Skies (Broken Skies #1)

Title: Broken Skies (Broken Skies #1)

Author: Theresa Kay

Genres: Adventure | Dystopia | Post-apocalyptic | Romance | Science Fiction

Length: 276 pages | 3823 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

Jax is not going to be Promised to any man. She has a plan. She is going to escape with her brother Jace.
Just when she is about to break the news to him, Jace gets kidnapped by alien fiends. Now Jax has got to do everything in her power to get him back and, for that, she will count on the help of an unlikely ally. In the process, she will learn things about herself she never dreamed of.

Review:

My first impression of this novel was not positive at all. Within the first few lines I asked myself what I had gotten myself into and that feeling increased as I read the first couple of paragraphs/chapters.
I immediately disliked the main character because she struck me as intensely immature. Demanding people to call her by her nickname, the rants, the tantrums, good grief…
Then there was all the flushing and the letting out of breaths she didn’t know she was holding and the stopping what she was about to do because she hadn’t realized what she was doing, etc, etc.

An awkward love triangle forms almost immediately and although its development was out of the ordinary it still felt clichée.
As I was reading, I guessed I was supposed to be moved by the relationship between Jasmine aka Jax and her brother, but the fact is I felt he was just a prop to make the plot advance. Jax was supposed to go on a trip with a mysterious, beautiful looking alien, so let’s make the purpose of said trip saving Jax’s brother, shall we? For the preparation and the journey itself, Jax will feel maddeningly drawn to the alien, but obviously constantly denies her feelings because he is an alien and just so damn rude and obnoxious. Or is he? No… No, he isn’t. She is, though.

As the story develops, Jax remains annoying though there is some growth. For the most part though, her mood switches between hot anger and icy fear – expressions, or variations thereof, which were repeated to exhaustion throughout the book.
Some revelations surprised me, others not at all. The book didn’t get exciting for me up to the last 15 or 20%.
However, the fact is the writing does not give pause for break. It is a fast paced book and although a lot was left unexplained (Why are children, both human and alien, sick? Why was Lir on the clearing? Why did his kitu stop working? Why didn’t the other aliens wait for him before returning to the city? And so much more) or did not make sense (example: if the aliens’ blood was green, why did they blush red and their infected wounds were red instead of dark green?), the fact is I was not bored I got through it pretty quickly.

I realize I am not the right audience for this book and that what I found annoying others may find exciting. Therefore, I recommend it to teens/young adults who enjoy sci-fi and romance; I believe they will find it very entertaining and difficult to put down.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Jun 03 to Jun 05, 2016
GR Review

The Gospel at Work

Title: The Gospel at Work

Author: Sebastian Traeger, Greg Gilbert

Genres: Religion

Length: 160 pages | 2931 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Do we face our jobs as God intended? This book explores how our work fits into God’s plans and how we can worship Him while performing it.

Review:

Well, I felt it was time for something new, so I picked this one up, which had been sitting on my Netgalley shelf for well over a year.

The book puts things in perspective: do we idolize our work? Or, on the other hand, do we take it for granted and do as little as possible, giving in to idleness?

Can work be used to praise God? How?

I have to tell you, at times it didn’t feel like this book was only 160 pages long. That is most likely due to the fact I am not used to read non-fiction. However, I also did find it a bit repetitive at times – particularly the verse that kept being quoted over and ove again – and I had a difficult time adjusting to the Americanized Christian language.
I also wish I could have seen more of Greg’s experience; as far as I could tell, only Seb gave specific examples.

However, the fact is this book addresses several points in our relationship with work, what it means and how we should handle it, that people can relate to and does so in an unpretentious manner. It relates the statements to the scripture and in the end of each chapter there are a few questions that each individual can use to deepen the knowledge they’ve just acquire and do an introspection of their relationship with work.

I do believe any Christian should read it. It might just be what you need not only to help you deal with work but to actually find a new, wonderful meaning to it. Or if you don’t find the experience fully gratifying like me tou will still take something from it.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from May 25 to Jun 03, 2016
GR Review

The Lobster

The Lobster

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

Review:

Now the fact that you will turn into an animal if you fail to fall in love with someone during your stay here is not something that should upset you or get you down. Just think, as an animal you’ll have a second chance to find a companion. But, even then, you must be careful; you need to choose a companion that is a similar type of animal to you. A wolf and a penguin could never live together, nor could a camel and a hippopotamus. That would be absurd.

The Lobster is unlike any movie I have ever watched. With shocking opening and closing scenes, everything in between is disturbing and thought-provoking. The plot, characters, sound and visual presentations all contribute to present one of the most touching and bizarre movies probably ever made. There is a lot to take in, but it all comes together in a weird harmony.

Large audiences will most likely not take to this movie. It is often slow paced, filled with awkward silences and the authors deliver the lines in an almost robotic manner. That all suits the world being presented here, though. A world where people are reduced in such a manner that they are coupled according to their main characteristics – be it beautiful hair, proneness to nose-bleeding or short-sightedness.

Colin Farrell was superb in this role. As a man who was left by his wife, he often comes across as uncaring and even apathetic and his attempts to find a partner are quite awkward, although that is the norm in the place. Everyone is just so desperate, alienated and reduced to a shell of a person.
David struggles to keep himself and his freedom of choice of a partner or lack thereof, while surviving his oppressive surroundings, and watching him evolve is very moving.

However, don’t think this is a one-man movie. Each character is unique and they all add to the story in one way or the other.
I sort of wished I could have seen the female perspective on the hotel, but it would then be a completely different movie, so that’s fine.

The film is drowsed in noir humour. Because the setting is so bleak, I found it heart breaking, even in the supposedly funny moments. However, it is so rich in so many ways, from the concept to the mixture of cultural references to all the small hints at how our own society and each individual deals with being single. There is either a pressure to be coupled and being recognized as such by society, or a commitment to staying single, and it seems that, as in the movie, a middle term is practically impossible.

This is a film that needs to be appreciated throughout and there is plenty to digest and discuss afterwards.
However, do be prepared to be taken off balance and to cope with the slow pace.