Review

Review: Notes from the Upside Down – Inside the World of Stranger Things by Guy Adams

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

As soon as Stranger Things was released on Netflix, I watched it all in two or three days. There’s just something about the show – the 80s setting, the dark science fiction theme, the soundtrack, the incredible cast… I love it so much and try and make EVERYONE watch it. Hence why I was interested in reading a book about the show.

Unfortunately, this book does not do the show any justice. It is fan written, and not at all linked to anyone who worked on the show. The formula of each chapter soon became very repetitive: a detailed recap of each episode (which felt so unnecessary, I don’t need each episode described frame by frame thanks), some bonus information such as inspirations, music etc, and then ‘homework’ questions (basically a small quiz about the episode, with things you’d only notice if you’d read the questions before watching).

I appreciate that the author is a big fan of the show, and he tried to inject some humour into the book as well, but it just completely missed and felt a little ‘try hard’. I don’t think I would recommend this book, even to the biggest Stranger Things fans.

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Review

Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

There is a definite trend for Alice in Wonderland related things at the moment, what with the 150th anniversary of the books publication in 2015. Since then I’ve seen countless retellings, spin-offs and books loosely inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll. Therefore, anyone writing one of these such novels has to work extra hard to make theirs stand out from the crowd, and sadly, apart from the gorgeous cover, After Alice didn’t really manage the job.

Following the tale of Ada, a friend of Alice who is very, very briefly mentioned in Alice in Wonderland, After Alice demonstrates how Wonderland has changed after Alice’s visit. Which is to say, not much at all. Following Alice’s journey almost step for step, Ada meets the various denizens of Wonderland – the walrus and the carpenter, the White Rabbit, the Duchess, the Red Queen – but, unlike Alice, her interaction is minimal and not half as entertaining. Ada seems to have none of Alice’s curiosity in ending up in Wonderland, and therefore the reader is not exposed to as much as they could be.

There were a lot of things I did not particularly enjoy about the novel. First, the purple prose, clearly trying to emulate Carroll’s style of writing, but falling slightly flat. Secondly, the sudden switches between tenses for no apparent reason – it would go from past to present tense and back without explanation, which threw me off a bit. And finally, this book shows a much darker side to Alice and her family. Considering that these were real people, and at times they appear almost vulgar and grotesque, I actually felt almost uncomfortable at their portrayal.

Every character felt flat and stereotyped, and the frequent switches between point of view (both Ada and Alice’s older sister, Lydia) made it too disjointed to feel like an adventure. Ultimately, I had a lot of trouble concentrating on this book, and it never managed to fully pull me down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland.

Review

Review: The Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Maybe I’ve just read so much fantasy that something has to be really unique to get my attention. Or maybe this book was just not that good.

From the very beginning, The Novice just felt like a generic fantasy novel: the protagonist a young boy who is ‘different’ from the others in his village, with unknown parentage. And then one day he discovers that he has a talent for summoning, and somehow ends up at a magical school. Yet the way in which he gets there is so coincidental, and I just had so many questions. It is mentioned so many times that new students are gifted a demon by a summoner on their arrival – but Fletcher just turns up with his. It is assumed it was gifted to him by Arcturus, the summoner who takes Fletcher to the school and who also teaches there, but no-one bothers to check whether he actually did, and neither does Arcturus correct them.

Basically, the requirements for getting into the school are never really explained – which is pretty much how it works throughout the entire book. There was a complete and utter lack of world-building: yep, it’s a fantasy world that has humans, orcs, elves and dwarves. That’s basically all I got. The four races don’t like each other, and orcs and humans are at war. Every single character was boring, flat and a stereotype – the hardy dwarves and snooty elves – and the whole thing was completely predictable, including the details of Fletcher’s heritage. And again, why are there so many fantasy worlds where women are second class citizens? There is all this fuss about how women are ‘finally’ allowed to be summoners. This is a FANTASY world. Even if you draw elements from medieval history, as many fantasy novels do, you don’t have to draw everything to make it more ‘realistic’ – especially as this is a book about magic and summoning demons. I certainly don’t remember learning about that in history class. The dialogue was stilted and awkward, and the writing boring and uninspiring. I love fantasy novels that paint a picture, authors that can summon vivid imagery of their imagined worlds with just a paragraph – but alas, The Novice is seriously lacking in any pretty prose.

Perhaps if I was younger – a LOT younger – and hadn’t read as many fantasy novels with which to compare this, I would have enjoyed it. As it is, it was a dull, predictable novel with no real heart or feeling.

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Review

Review: Powers – The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim by Brian Michael Bendis

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I love superhero stories. All the classic comics, plus more recent novels. So when I was offered this for review, I leapt at the chance. It takes a classic detective story and adds superhero elements, based on the comic book series of the same name by Brian Michael Bendis, and an hour long show on the Playstation Network. However, whilst it seemed that I would not be at a disadvantage being unfamiliar with the Deena Pilgrim universe, I definitely felt I would have enjoyed the book a lot more were I more familiar with it.

Also, I feel like this book may have suffered slightly from bad timing. I began reading it at the same time as I was reading Calamity, the third book in the Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson. Reading two books about superheroes at the same time – especially when one of them is from a series you really love – you’re sure to compare the two, and unfortunately The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim didn’t quite live up to it.

Overall, I didn’t particularly enjoy this one – the detective element or the superhero element. There wasn’t much involvement of superheroes, apart from a link with the murders that Deena investigates. The whole mystery felt a bit of a mess, and rather than drawing me in and encouraging me to work things out for myself, it just really confused me. There was an entire chapter where one character was referred to by three different names, constantly alternating – which had me convinced for a while that there were in fact two characters present, instead of one. I found myself reading this book only at lunchtime at work, mostly just because it was smaller and easier to fit in my bag than the other book I was reading…

It’s a shame that this one didn’t work out for me. If I’d previously read the comic and understood more of the back story then perhaps I would have enjoyed it a lot more – so I’d love to hear if anyone has read both, and enjoyed them!

Review

Review: Holy Cow by David Duchovny

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

This book was… uh, not really my kind of thing. At all. I read it in about three hours, but seven pages into it I already hated the tone and the awful jokes. So by that point, I was truly glad it was only 250 pages or so.

Holy Cow follows a young cow who learns the truth about ‘meat farms’, and decides to move to India where she won’t be eaten. She is joined by her friend Tom the Turkey, who wants to go to Turkey, and a pig called Shalom who has recently coverted to the Jewish faith and decides to move to Israel. The only problem – well, they’re animals, and can’t just waltz onto a plane.

But oh – they can.

I just didn’t quite get where this book was going. The characters used slang like ‘totes cray-cray and ‘amazeballs’, as well as actually saying ‘OMG’, and every time slang was used I found myself grinding my teeth (pls pay for my dental work Mr. Duchovny, thanks). And let’s forget all about that dreaded word, the worst one ever… ‘bae’. No. No no no. Please don’t ever use that in a book – okay, maybe it would work in a book where the characters are all teen HUMANS, but there is no excuse this time.

There were also about 50 mentions of ‘my editor told me to do this so I will…’ as well as pop culture references and even a reference or two to porn. This entire book felt like one atrocious mess.

The only redeeming feature was the illustrations, which were really quite cute. Elsie was only a likeable character when she was being serious, but sadly the moral of the story was pretty much downplayed and hidden behind all the ‘humour’.

Try again, Mulder.
you tried

Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Review of The Fearless by Emma Pass

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Having previously read Acid by Emma Pass for the first Sci-Fi Month in 2013, and enjoying it much more than expected, I had quite high hopes for The Fearless. Sadly, these hopes were not met.

The Fearless brings us a world where a serum has been developed for the military, a serum that removes all fear from the user. Unfortunately, as meddling with things like this often goes, the serum has adverse side effects and turns the user into a zombie type creature, although more aware than your typical zombie. Cities and towns are overrun by ultraviolent army types, who start to convert civilians. The book opens with Cass aged eleven, escaping some of the Fearless with her parents, and heading to live on an isolated island society.

Initially, I did not realise that the book used multiple points of view. I do not mind this at all, apart from when the voices are not distinct, or it is not particularly obvious when the POV switches. This was an issue with The Fearless. Part of the blame lies on the formatting of the eARC, where the name of the character narrating the chapter was not immediately obvious, and this will not be an issue with the final publication. However, the voices of the three characters were so similar, that sometimes I had to go back and double check whose point of view I was reading.

I didn’t particularly think much of any character. Cass did not stand out, her childhood best friend Sol was petty and jealous. Of course, her childhood best friend is in love with her and Cass does not return these affections. Sol becomes abusive and violent, and Cass doesn’t seem to think until much later on that his reactions were unusual. Then there is Myo, the mysterious outsider whom Cass falls for, but isn’t quite who he seems. This relationship was just so… predictable, again. The romance had zero chemistry and no other reason but two teenagers thrown together. They even talk of love after less than a week has passed. Relationships are a deal breaker for me in books – they need chemistry, they need to feel genuine. I don’t just cheer for couples just for the sake of it, and Cass and Myo made no sense – particularly when Myo revealed his ‘big secret’ (that was also easy to guess).

This was quite a major disappointment after Acid, and at over halfway through I felt like barely anything had happened. Boring and undeveloped characters, a predictable plot and a ‘romance’ that lacks any real feeling. If you’re going to read some of Emma Pass’ work, I would definitely recommend you try Acid instead of this.

Review

Review: Fable – Blood of Heroes by Jim C. Hines

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Being a bit of a sucker for video game novels (or well, okay, video games in general…) I had to accept this one from the wonderful Titan Books when it was offered. The Fable series is a fantastic one, allowing the player to take control of a hero and decide the destiny of Albion, as well as their very own fate. However, this concept is lost in the transition from game to book.

I can’t fault the book for its readability though. I felt like no time had passed and suddenly I was 50 pages in. The Fable series of video games is known for its sense of humour, which was incorporated into the book, but sometimes it felt just a little too silly.

The story begins by introducing the reader to four Heroes. Then suddenly, a good 100 pages in, four more Heroes appear with no real introduction – the book just suddenly switches to their POVs. The link between the two groups is not immediate, and when finally shown feels very weak. With eight points of view, this felt like far too many, especially because they were pretty much indistinguishable from the other. No single hero stood out, and they felt a little ‘cookie cutter’ – perhaps though, they suffer from being based on video game characters that perhaps have less room for development.

Ultimately, whilst I enjoyed Hines’ writing style – and am still very interested in reading his Libriomancer series – I found the story to be rather unstructured and the characters lacking. Perhaps more of a book for only the biggest of Fable fans.