Hangman’s Army (Lake of Sins #3)

Title: Hangman’s Army (Lake of Sins #3)

Author: L.S. O’Dea

Genres: Fantasy | Horror | Paranormal | Post-apocalyptic | Speculative Fiction | Thriller

Length: 565 pages | 7940 locations

Source: Author

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

Book 3 of the Lake of Sins takes place four years after the events of the previous one. While High Hugh Truent was in prison for claiming that all classes were genetically similar, the world outside changed radically. A war is looming… and the allied classes need Hugh.

Review:

When I first looked up the book details I thought whoa, 565 pages, that is going to take me a while. But it went by so fast! I never imagined I would finish in just three days.

I cannot say this enough, L.S. O’Dea is such a talented writer. The pace is relentless but that does not mean that the world and character development is not satisfying, on the contrary. There is a lot going on but it is quite easy to follow and it only made me want to know what happened next.

It’s a YA book, not my favourite genre, so there will always be things I don’t particularly like as the characters end up sounding too dramatic for my taste. Trinity ticked me off a few times but I enjoy to see her keep growing.

There were quite a few repetitions – a lot of disgusted looks, for instance, and the way Hugh kept correcting mother to Sarah and father to General Truent when he found out the truth just felt forced and overdone, just like the excessive compliments on both Trinity and Hugh. I feel that their actions say enough, we don’t need to be told several that Trinity is brave and honest, even through the voice of another character, or that Hugh really doesn’t want more deaths on his conscience.

All in all I had a really good time reading this. Some parts made me laugh out loud, which earned me quite a few puzzled looks on the bus ride home, while others had me biting my nails. Some scenes were just so tense that I figuratively stood on my toes.

I can honestly say this is amongst the best YA reads I have stumbled upon and encourage you to pick up these books. This series has all the ingredients to become an epic.

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

Read from Jan 25th to Jan 28th, 2017
GR Review

Dreams Before the Start of Time

Title: Dreams Before the Start of Time

Author: Anne Charnock

Genres: Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 224 pages | 2911 Locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

A family saga spanning five generations revolving about the future of fertility in a very near-future world.

Review:

Dreams Before the Start of Time had my head spinning. It is quite an epic book, spanning five generations. It is not a particularly easy read as it goes back and forth in time and switches characters quite often.

I don’t even know what to say about its content cause there is just so much going on and at the same time not much. We are shown snippets of several characters’ lives, at different points in their life. We meet them as babies and adults and as the narrative advances we get the view them differently but they still have their voices.

Sadly I was unable to connect with the characters. Also, the writing made me uncomfortable, as each chapter or even subchapter ended very abruptly.

However, I did enjoy the sci-fi elements. I especially enjoyed that everything felt like it could happen soon. It is not distant sci-fi as most of the stuff out there. And crazy as it may seem the stuff that comes up during the narrative made me wonder why I hadn’t thought of that before because it could totally happen.

It is a special book indeed. I just wish I could have connected more with the characters and that the narrative didn’t feel so disjointed all the time. Rounding it up because there is so much food for thought and for the originality of the concept, but it is a solid 3.5 for me.

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 Jan 12th to Jan 16th, 2017

GR Review

We Like You So Much and Want to Know You Better

Title: We Like You So Much and Want to Know You Better

Author: Dave Eggers

Narrator: Dion Graham

Genres: Contemporary | Short Story | Speculative Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Length: 46m 36s

Source: Promotion on Amazon

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Premise:
Mae is lucky enough to get a job in a major company.
Soon she will find out that the job comes with strings attached.

Review:

This was a thought-provoking story about the impact of the media in our daily lives and how far our employers may demand us to go.

However, the main character was extremely bland.

When the agenda becomes clear, she completely loses interest, providing one or two word replies and relinquishing any sense of personality.

Some things did not seem plausible and the ending felt rushed but this is definitely a frightening glimpse of the future because it feels like it could be real.

This is free on Audible and I enjoyed the narration so I do recommend it.

Listened to on Nov 28th, 2016
GR Review

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.

Dark Matter

Title: Dark Matter

Author: Blake Crouch

Genres: Fantasy | Mystery | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction | Thriller

Length: 342 pages | 4988 locations

Source: Blogging for Books | Negalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

After a series of strange events, a man finds himself in a reality he does not recognize. As he puzzles pieces together, he finds out the terrifying truth.

Review:

Well, it is hard to review this book without giving away spoilers, but I will try my best.

Dark Matter could have been an amazing book. I really wanted to love it. However, there were a couple of things that made me not love it:

1. A large part of my enjoyment depends on the gradual discovery of what is happening, and here I figured out within a few lines what the main character did only at 42% of the book. As the events ensue, the narrative is filled with action interspersed by mental monologues of this character, trying to make sense of what happened. Throughout the whole thing I was like… ‘Really? You still haven’t figured it out? That’s the direction you’re going?’ It was quite frustrating.

2. The perfection. Jason and his life are much too perfect. He is a very good man who has never done anyone any harm, he has great stamina even though he is a teacher and it is implied he does not exercise, and he makes odd choices such as if you are short on money and have no idea how to get more do you prefer to spend it on a hotel room or save it for food? while other times he is extremely brave. His wife is perfect. His son is perfect. His job is not that perfect but he can deal with it because as long as he has his family he is perfectly happy.
So yes, all the perfection bothered me and I could never connect to the main character. However, I do get that it is a major point of the book, to make you value what you have and so what ticked me off will surely not bother other readers.

3. Some things just did not add up and here I cannot go without spoilers. The main thing was, if Jason 2 had four times the ampoules he had, doesn’t that mean he would have generated approximately that many more versions of himself? And yet that was never addressed, I never found out why it only happened with the narrator. Also, how the heck did Jason2 manage to send him to his world if the ‘driver’ chooses which world he or she ends up in?

Still, the story was intriguing enough and I wanted to keep reading. Right about the time where Jason figures out what is going on things improve by a lot. I was actually surprised and the descriptions were very enthralling. At times there was a parallel narrative which was also quite interesting and I kind of wanted to know more about that.

Even so, the way the story developed kept leaving me uncomfortable. The first time I didn’t know how the box or the drug worked worked so I kept wondering why they were walking so far away and were not afraid of not being able to get back. Then I knew well ok the box stays there and they have the drug but what if someone finds the box? What if the military finds out it? These questions and others kept gnawing at the back of my mind and I supposed helped me from fully enjoying the story.

So in the end I found Dark Matter entertaining but lacking. I still recommend it, though, and it is one of those books that makes for a great discussion.

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

Other info:

Read from Aug 14 to Aug 22, 2016
GR Review

Writers of the Future Volume 31

Title: Writers of the Future Volume 31

Author: Multiple authors

Genres: Fantasy | Science Fiction | Short Stories | Speculative Fiction

Length: 496 pages | 6906 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

A sci-fi short story anthology.

Review:

This collection is supposed to feature some of the best sci-fi short stories by non professional writers, supported by illustrations by promising artists and I have to tell you it does not disappoint. It is just a shame that I could not view them in all their splendour in my Kindle Paperwhite as they seemed truly amazing.

The anthology opens with a bang. Switch was amazing, easily a five star story, even though at some point there was too much action for my personal taste.
The main character’s development was superb and the world created here blew me away. I would really love to read a full-length novel of this. Unfortunately it seems even though the author has written it he has not had luck having it published.
The writing is right up my alley. The author does not waste time with unnecessary flourishes nor long winded details and yet is able to paint the picture so clearly, grasping the reader’s attention.
I was truly impressed. I absolutely loved the sci-fi stuff, the complexity of the character, the fast paced development of the narrative and the touching, bittersweet ending.

It is impossible that the author of The Dog Whisperer has not seen Cesar Milan’s show, of which I am a huge fan. What a witty story! Such a wonderful play on it, not just the title. It is so wonderfully, quirkily believable, with an Alice in Wonderland sort of feel. So short and yet so satisfying. Full 5 stars as well!

Stars That Make Dark Heaven Light by Sharon Joss is probably the longest story of the bunch and it stands well on its own. Humans colonising other planets and genetically changing to adapt is not a new concept but this novella takes it to a new level, with Darwin quotes on the spaceships and several other particularities. I have to admit I did not see the development coming and while I began by twisting my nose at it, I opened my mind to it and you know what? It’s great sci-fi. I am still not entirely sold on some things but as a whole this story was very well achieved. 4.75 stars.

Art was, in my opinion, unnecessary. A clinical article such as this has no room amongst short stories. Perhaps as an introduction to the anthology but never here. I found it boring and out of context.

When Shadows Fall did not impress me in the least for quite a while, other than the fact that it portrayed an Earth more ruined than I had ever read about. I didn’t even know how people could survive in such conditions and I had trouble remembering the characters.
In the end it turned out to be a story told in the way of a parable, about greed, past offences, what it takes to get past them and who is willing to get it done. Quite beautiful, really. 4.25 stars.

A Revolutionary Guide to Practical Conjuration was not one of my favourites. I did not much care for the characters or story. Every time it seemed it was about to get interesting, there was a lot of info dumping. I liked the idea of an interactive book but that was about it.
The character evolution did not make sense to me either, as he never seemed particularly bright, which the plot twist near the end required.
I didn’t get the ending. So the Demon goes back to the book but it seems it keeps doing what Abe asked because bones were delivered to what’s their name. That means it will be free again when everything Abe mentioned is done, right? Meh. 2.5 stars.

Twelve minutes to Vinh Quang was surprising! The story had a tense build up which culminated quite unexpectedly – for me, at least. I loved how the sci-fi gadgets were introduced noncommittally and how the characters’ roles progressively reversed.
I even loved the old lady.
It was a very entertaining story without superfluous flourishes but which still managed to feel complete, well put together and very real. This is a great example of great sci-fi, when a story is obviously futuristic but you feel like you could be there and all that stuff could be happening. 5 stars.

Planar Ghosts takes place in a bleak post-apocalyptic world. I could not connect to it. The world, characters or story just did not even tickle me entertained. The idea of it could have been interesting and the plot twist was ok but in the end it was just a little below average. 2 stars

Fiction on Paper is a non-fiction text written by Orson Scott Card. It starts off really well, with an analysis on how writing and the various forms of writing have evolved over the years; how reading is becoming less and less sought out as a form of entertaining when there are so many instant alternatives out there that do not require imagination. Then it turns into a self-eulogy of the Writers of the Future anthology and how it is the absolute best platform to launch new sci-fi and fantasy writers. Again, that struck me as unnecessary. 2.75/5 stars

The idea for Rough Draft told in the author’s bio was almost more interesting than the story itself. The fact is it asks for quite a lot of suspension of disbelief. We are presented to a world where travelling to parallel universities is normal and I felt I did not get a solid enough foundation for that. Also, as intricate as it seemed to be to the society, the law system sure didn’t make sense.
I found the premise not that interesting. The time-travel company brings a book from another university that was never published in this one and the author, who turned into a hermit after one hit, does not like it one bit. The narrative unfurls as you would expect, with no real surprises. It has value merely as an inspiring, motivational tale. 2.5 stars

Between Screens reminded me a bit of A Clockwork Orange, oddly enough. A group of kids with their own language up to no good, skipping around in Space.
I didn’t really get how it worked because the viewings were described as live but yet the characters seemed to have seen it before, but it was an interesting tale and the character’s (d)evolution was rather unsettling. I felt the skipping was overwhelming and that I wanted more backstory but that is a very personal opinion, as there really was a bit of everything, it was a balanced story. A dark, intense story. 4.25 stars

Unrefined did not work for me at all. Corporate, hard sci-fi is just not my thing. It started out exhaustingly descriptive, with a lot of tell and not nearly enough show, and it evolved into a weird narrative full of motivational speeches and stilted dialogues, with a main character I could never find interesting. Nuh huh. 1.5 stars

Half Past was a lovely short story, very well written and with an interesting premise. Externalising strong emotions in such a way is so clever!
The plot twist was surprising but it did not quite fit in the rest of the story for me. If Elizabeth says Echoes stick to the same place and are stuck in time, how come she gets to roam around the entire house and premises and interact with other Echoes while they seem so isolated? Also, is she perpetually about to leave but never does? How does she account for that? I can’t even imagine what that father must have felt like, stuck in a house with those crazies for so many years. It was still a wonderful fantasy tale and I give it 4 stars.

Purposes Made for Alien Minds features a humanoid creature that can only think and speak in 5 worded sentences. The entire thing felt like a challenge the author put himself up to, to write an enthralling story only 5 words at a time. In my opinion, it didn’t work. Not only did I keep having brainfreezes, the story would go round and round and it just wasn’t worth it. 1 star

Inconstant Moon is an okay apocalyptic tale. I felt the sense of doom but there was nothing there that made me go ‘wow’. 2.75 stars

The Illustrators of the Future is a text about the importance of illustrators and more self-praise to the anthology.

The Graver is easily the most emotional story in the anthology. It started really well, with all the fantasy, sci-fi and supernatural elements inherent to the story being introduced in a very organic manner. The resolution itself did not wow me but all the elements make for a very good story indeed. 4.5 stars

Wisteria Melancholy features such a curious notion – that when people are emotionally disturbed they experience morphological changes. The concept and context was introduced very well, no info dumping, all very natural. Then as it developed I lost a bit of interest and I can’t even really tell you why. It’s like there’s this concept that is so cool that I wish more had been done with it and that even though it depends on the characters being emotional, how it was done was just not appealing to me. Much like the ending, it left me wanting. Also, I would have liked to see or at least hear about more morphological changes – invisibility is so overdone at this point.
However, I still found the concept very intriguing and had fun reading it. 4.25 stars

Poseidon’s Eyes was enthralling on several levels – the setting, the spirits, the characters… It bothered me I didn’t get that the main character was female until about half through the story and there were minor things here and there but overall it was excellent. 4.75 stars

On the Direction of Art, along with the other two texts, is what makes me want to bring the rating down even more. I just feel that these texts have no place in such an anthology. In my opinion, self-gratifying eulogies along with essays on the importance of reuniting writers and illustrators of sci-fi and fantasy are fine on the back cover, introduction and/or as a way to promote the anthology, but taking up space in itself just feels unnecessary and redundant.

Overall I enjoyed the short stories quite a lot and it has got to be one of the best collections of the genre I have read.

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 July 13rd to Aug 14th, 2016
GR Review