"If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster." --Isaac Asimov

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Book review: The Book of Blood and Shadow, by Robin Wasserman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I discovered Robin Wasserman by accident (with the Cold Awakening trilogy) a couple of years ago, when looking for Scott Westerfeld's books. I haven't read anything by her since then, so I'd forgotten what a fantastic writer she is.

Part of my attraction to this book was the setting. I'm fascinated by Prague, and it's near the top of my list for cities I'd visit if I were independently wealthy and could spend my days traveling. Wasserman certainly does the setting justice: the dual storyline, with the parallelism between 16th-century Prague and the present day, added to my enjoyment.

I'm not a big fan of the current trend to stick a romance in every YA book, but in this book it was woven into the story well enough that it was integral to the plot. The characters have surprising depth, again a tribute to Wasserman's skill. I've heard others draw comparisons to certain Dan Brown books, and that's probably apt, except I would add the qualifier that I enjoyed the writing much more--it often has a poetic quality that you don't find in many fast-paced YA books. Highly recommended!



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Friday, April 22, 2016

Book review: Andrew's Brain by E.L. Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've enjoyed many (perhaps most) of Doctorow's short stories, but I wasn't enamored of the only novel of his I tried, City of God. I did really like the short story, though, so I may need to go back and give the novel another chance.

This is a beautifully written, quirky, and nonlinear exploration of the workings of a man's mind. It's filled with dark humor, which is my favorite kind. The stream-of-consciousness style enhances the narrative, and Doctorow's prose leaves me more than a little envious of his talent. I thought about quoting a passage or two here, but it would be hard to single just one out for special mention. The addition of the White House segment, especially Chaingang and Rumbum, was a nice touch and had me laughing out loud.

I don't recommend this book if you're one of those readers who demands plot and structure in every novel, but if you enjoy immersing yourself in elegant prose, read it. It will leave you pondering its intricacies days and weeks after you've turned the last page.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second book this month that involves two stories in one, and both books were by two of my favorite YA authors. In this one, however, the secondary story happens mostly in the background, unlike Scott Westerfeld's Afterworlds, in which the chapters alternate between two very different stories.

The writing was, as usual for Ness, excellent: quirky, well-developed characters, settings with just the right amount of detail to make them come alive, and a compelling narrative voice. Somehow, though, the book just didn't grab me by the throat and shake me until my teeth rattled, which is something I've come to expect from Ness. Instead, it was more of a slow, simmering process. Well worth reading, though.

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Book review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

I couldn't give this a perfect score, only because I have very high standards when it comes to Scott Westerfeld: I expect every book to be uniformly excellent. This one was pretty damn good, but it was missing just the tiniest touch of his magic.

The dual-story concept was a bit jarring at first, but I actually liked it as I went along. I may be doing something similar for a novel I'm working on (1st-person narrative with 3rd-person main story), so the book was helpful from that standpoint.

Like many reviewers, I thought the premise of the whole Darcy story was pretty far-fetched (as much as I'd like to have that much faith in the publishing industry). But hey, this is fantasy, right? Still a good read.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Book review: The Best Small Fictions 2015

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As someone who has dabbled with flash fiction, I recognize the challenges of writing "short short" or microfiction. Every word has to count, for there is absolutely no margin for error, no room for luxury.

This collection might more aptly be titled "The Best of the Best..." because it is exactly that. Each story in contention was nominated by a literary magazine or journal, and the guest editor, Robert Olen Butler, made the final selection.

Butler says in his introduction, "They are small but brimming with our shared human experience." I found the quality of these stories to be uniformly excellent. A few didn't connect with me on a personal level, but even then, I admired the quality of the writing.

It's very difficult to pick favorites in a collection like this, so I won't even try. The stories cover a broad range of issues, from the safety of abandoned mine shafts to the irony surrounding a corporate job filled by a long-dead employee. They span the spectrum from light to dark, and the lengths range from a tweet (140 characters) to flash (1,000 words). There is truly something for everyone who likes short fiction: a variety of styles and forms give the collection a subtle rhythm that attests to the skill of the editors. The collection will take its place on my virtual shelves along with its longer cousins in short fiction from George Saunders, Kurt Vonnegut, and E.L. Doctorow.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the editor.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book review: While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut

 My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I often feel that posthumous releases of an author's early work are little more than a money grab by the publisher. However, in this case, I'm glad these early stories made their way into the world.

This is a side of Vonnegut that fans of his later work may not completely appreciate, but I enjoyed all the stories. Warm, often funny, and with a gentle reminder of the simpler morals of a time long passed, the stories are a light read--well worth it for anyone who appreciates short fiction.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Goodreads giveaway for Gateway of India (Omnibus Edition)


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Gateway of India by Ken  Doyle

Gateway of India

by Ken Doyle

Giveaway ends November 29, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

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