Sunday, November 4, 2018

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

Quoteable: " is not the big events that hurt the most but rather the smallest questionable shift in tone at the end of a spoken word that can plow most deeply into the heart."

Characters: I've known versions of each of the character types represented in this novella. Many of the trappings of modern day romance and growing up play out in these pages. I realize many people hated this book claiming they felt flat, but I found quite the opposite.

Writing Style: Martin's observations of human behavior may very well come from personal experience. While it's allowable to not relate, I feel many of the low ratings were given based on personal agenda rather than actual merit. I enjoyed his writing.

What I Enjoyed: This book made me feel, sometimes empathy and other times pity for different personas. Works like this are important - reminding us we're not alone in the confusing universe of dating and finding our center.

Deal Benders: The ending felt a bit unfinished. I'm not quite sure what else I expected to happen, but I was expecting more of a flourish. Also I seem to have picked up a few books lately that have random explicit content. I don't read romance novels because they're the equivalent of so-called 'girl porn'...I'm all for some sexual tension but it would be nice to see a bit more innuendo and less F-bombs. If you're writing erotica then just do that rather than masquerading amid an otherwise enjoyable storyline.

Overall Rating: 3-3.5 stars. I liked it, but have to adjust for the innaccessible pieces. If it were appropriate for a wider audience, I could give the main story more of a recommendation.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

First Impression: I'm intrigued by a dystopian society where middle aged means dispensable.

Characters: I felt for the inhabitants of the unit, especially as they grow attached to each other while knowing it cannot end well. One relationship in particular stands out as star-crossed.

World Building: Claustrophobia is palpable in the underground unit, where only two seasons rotate around artificial sunlight. Otherwise a chracter-driven world.

Writing Style: I read this in one sitting, which is a testament to Holmqvist's writing ability. Except for a few unnecessary scenes, the story flowed really well.

What I Enjoyed: It didn't end the way I thought it would, which makes it all the more memorable. The relationships and moral questions bubbling up from this novel haunted my subconcious into the next day. The hallmark of good fiction is when it changes you in some small way.

Deal Benders: The author writes sex scenes with all the passion of a scientist observing the act. Seriously egregious sex scenes, enough already. This makes your book unsuitable for such a wider audience, I'm still not sure why authors feel the need to laboriously detail intimacy. It feels like a cheap ploy to increase hype...End rant.

Overall Rating: 3 stars for a solid likeable read.

The City of Dreaming Books (Zamonia #4) by Walter Moers

First Impression: The title alone, and the idea of a whole city of books is enough to sweep me off my feet!

Characters: A plethora of imaginitive characters who make up Zamonia. My favorites were the Booklings. The endless names of fictitious authors and books became exhausting though...

World Building: A fully realized world built of its characters, Zamonia is unlike anything you've ever imagined.

Writing Style: Somewhere between Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, Moers has a lovely way with words. If only many of them weren't so distracting from the story.

What I Enjoyed: Fanciful and unique, with elements any book lover will adore. Who doesn't want to live in a city of books? The last half of this book is best, so if you find yourself getting bored you can always skip ahead.

Deal Benders: The endless prattling on about specific books or the inane history of one particular author or event removed me from the story long enough to walk away multiple times. I found myself really <i>wanting</i> to like this book, and I will try others by this author since I've heard good things.

Overall Rating: Somewhere between 2-2.5 stars. The elements didn't come together for me on this one.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King

Quotable: "secrets are a problem, maybe the biggest problem of all. They weigh on the mind and take up space in the world."

Characters: Follow Gwendy from childhood through becoming an adult, while she carries a burden none of us want to carry. The man in the hat is both charming and creepy, he arrives with cliffhanger information and a smile on his face.

World Building: I've always been a fan of Stephen King's ability to craft a world. Even when he only has 171 pages to do so, the scene is painted using enough gray to be realistic with a rainbow of the fantastic.

Writing Style: King builds suspense like no one else I've read. This tale is haunting yet plausible. Moral dilemmas make commentary on current events, wrapped in a bubble of fiction.

What I Enjoyed: I liked how I didn't know what to expect. Without ruining anything, there were scenes I never saw coming. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed this author's work, but a good reminder of what he's capable of under the right conditions.

Deal Benders: One of the main villains falls a bit flat as a character, but it doesn't really take away too much from the story.

Overall Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it, and the length was very appropriate for the content.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman

Quotable: "Heroic fiction had plenty of manly handclasps in it...but it had never gone into how you retrieved your hand afterwards, and whether there were any relevant squeezes or other manoeuvres."

Characters: The usual suspects in a fantasy series, with a hint at future romance between the main characters. The main villain is the most interesting personality, although they only appear towards the end of this first book. The others fell a bit flat for me.

World Building: The first half of the book primarily deals with creating The Library and alternate worlds. Some of these are magical and technological in varying balanced degrees, others have only one. Chaos and order ebb and flow in a never-ending battle, while creatures of lore carry the balance.

Writing Style: Young Adult level that picks up the pace in the last ten chapters or so. It seemed like Cogman wanted to share a wealth of information, then saved the intrigue for a grand finish.

What I Enjoyed: The final scenes, as I mentioned previously, redeemed this book for me. I hope to see more of this style in upcoming installments.

Deal Benders: Unfortunately, much of the first in this series felt like an info dump instead of slowly crafting the scene. This is a pit many authors fall into, and stories can be lost on the spikes. I am willing to give the next book a chance to see if these issues are resolved.

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars for an enjoyable adventure. The ending redeems wading through the slow starting tide.

For Fans of: Books about books, Sherlock Holmes mysteries

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Quotable: "As of two minutes ago, my name isn't Jean. My name is Thief."

Characters: I adore a strong female character, with real struggles and no time for victimization.

World Building: A scary yet not too far from realistic dystopian future, where religious zealots try to silence women in a return to the good old days. Stark and unnerving.

Writing Style: I was captivated by Dalcher's writing. Accessible yet surprising, she entrances from the first sentence of every chapter. This is difficult to maintain from the initial excitement of a first page, so I was very impressed by such a feat. The research and explanation behind the neuroscience shows a care for accuracy and detail. I'm still a bit speechless after finishing this book.

What I Enjoyed: I finished this book in one day - I could not put it down! The story telling, characters, and writing style made me an instant fan of this author. The sparse cover, print and chapter length selection, everything timed perfectly together. I can't wait to read more of her work.

Deal Benders: The rare occasion where I can't find anything wrong with a book. <3

Overall Rating: 5 stars - It's been some time since a book grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. I'm so glad I made this my next Goodread!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

First Impression: A book about libraries, yes please!

Characters: When characters become like friends, you know an author understands how to create them. Unger brings depth and distinction to each character as the highlight of this first installment.

World Building: Visceral and chilling. A future where owning books is a crime, and society is afraid of the librarians.

Writing Style: Well-paced, beautiful prose. Plot pieced together with background information in the form of letters. I appreciate this type of story telling.

What I Enjoyed: This is not a happy tale, yet an important realization of a cold reality within the realm of possibility. Many times in history groups have attempted to control the reading of the masses. I'm reminded of when slaves and women in this country were not allowed to read. Times when books were banned in many nations, or even burned to silence a population.

Deal Benders: In the second book I would like to see some hope for these characters and the world. Although wonderful, it was a bit bleak.

Overall Rating: 4 stars - I haven't read anything quite like Ink and Bone, which is hard to accomplish. I'm going to buy the next one as soon as my queue clears.

For Fans Of: Books about books! The Giver, Fahrenheit 451