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review 2019-03-25 00:14
Sky Without Stars, System Divine #1 by Joanne Rendell & Jessica Brody
Sky Without Stars - Joanne Rendell,Jessica Brody

If you read just one dystopian teen novel based on 'Les Misérables' make sure it's this one. No, but really, this turned out much better than I expected it to. The authors reinvent the core narrative of Hugo's novel into the tribulated teen romance genre and launches what could be a very interesting new series.

 

The planet Laterre is part of the System Divine, a three-sun solar system surrounded by 12 inhabitable planets. It was discovered and settled by ships that had fled from the First World which had been, or was about to be, made inhabitable. The ships carried with them colonists, technology, supplies and many backwards ideas of how to settle a new planet. Laterre holds the descendants of the French whose leadership set up an Ancien Régime similar to that of France before the Revolution. The First Estate is headed by the Patriarch and his family and live in a grand palace, the Second Estate is made up of fortunate families who live in comfort and ease and support the system by policing or running factories, or exploits. They make up about 5% of the population. The rest, the Third Estate, are downtrodden and forced to live in squalid poverty held in check by the oppressive regime, the hope of their being selected to join the Second estate by lottery, and, of course, the criminal acts of their peers. They don't have any housing at all, the best they can hope for is living in the old berths, staterooms and holds of the rusting freighters that brought their ancestors to the planet 500 years ago.

 

We hear from three perspectives - Chatine, the daughter of a gangster in the Third Estate who has taken it upon herself to con her way to getting a ticket off-planet, Marcellus, the grandson of the ranking member of the Second Estate and an officer in the regime, and Alouette, a young girl raised in a secret refuge that protects the history of the First World and the chronicles of Laterre. In the centuries since the founding of Laterre, people became so reliant on technology that they forgot how to read. Even the upper classes. Which, OK, sure.

 

The authors are effective world-builders, and the various elements of their source material are integrated in a plot that keeps up its pace over almost 600 pages. Of course, it's not the whole plot - there will be a sequel. What I'm most interested in though is what classic works they might use to build up the other planets of the system. Hints of the others include a English planet ruled by a mad queen, a German empire and a Frank Lloyd Wright reference (Usonia)? Probably American. I'm hoping for an American planet to involve a gay teen odd-couple signing on to a space-boat where the captain is obsessed with hunting the space-whale that took his leg. 

 

System Divine

 

Next: ?

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review 2019-03-24 18:24
An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman
An Armenian Sketchbook - Vasily Grossman

This is a vivid little book, as much a platform for the author’s musings on a variety of subjects as it is a travelogue. Grossman was a Jewish writer in the Soviet Union who had just had his masterwork confiscated by the authorities, when he traveled to Armenia to work on a “translation” of an Armenian novel. (He was actually cleaning up a literal translation into literary Russian, and did not in fact speak Armenian at all.) This short book is more essay collection than straight travel narrative; Grossman reflects on the landscape, on various people he meets and experiences he has, and on aspects of life in general that interest him.

At the beginning I enjoyed this book, appreciating the immediacy of Grossman’s writing and the thought-provoking subjects he touches on, but I found myself losing patience as I went on, and ultimately this book fell on the back burner.

Here’s an example of one of the passages that struck me, from a section in which Grossman wonders why the view of a beautiful lake doesn’t strike a chord of wonder within him:

For a particular scene to enter into a person and become part of their soul, it is evidently not enough that the scene be beautiful. The person also has to have something clear and beautiful present inside them. It is like a moment of shared love, of communion, of true meeting between a human being and the outer world.

The world was beautiful on that day. And Lake Sevan is one of the most beautiful places on earth. But there was nothing clear or good about me – and I had heard too many stories about the Minutka restaurant. After listening to the story of the lovesick princess, I asked, “But where’s the restaurant?”

. . . .

Or was it the thousands of paintings I had seen? Were they what poisoned my encounter with the high-altitude lake? We always think of the artist’s role as entirely positive; we think that a work of art, if it is anything more than a hack job, brings us closer to nature, that it deepens and enriches our being. We think that a work of art is some kind of key. But perhaps it is not? Perhaps, having already seen a hundred images of Lake Sevan, I thought that this hundred-and-first image was just one more routine product from a member of the Artists’ Union.


And here’s a passage that made me want to roll my eyes, thinking that the author puts altogether too much faith in his own feelings and perceptions:

But I repeat: there are many ways through which one can recognize that someone believes in God. It is not just a matter of words, but also of tones of voice, of the construction of sentences, of the look in a person’s eyes, in their gait, in their manner of eating and drinking. Believers can be sensed – and I did not sense any in Armenia.

What I did see were people carrying out rites. I saw pagans in whose good and kind hearts lived a god of kindness.


Why Grossman would think he could recognize Christianity from a person’s gait and syntax, of all things, especially cross-culturally, and why he is so confident in this ability that he can declare a country devoid of real Christians, I have no idea.

At any rate, this is a well-written little book that ranges over a wide variety of topics. Ultimately, I’d have liked it better if it had contained more about Armenia and less of the author’s pontification. But I did learn more about the country than I knew before, which was not much. (Judging from the selection of books shelved on Goodreads as “Armenia” – almost none of which are set there – I had the vague impression that the country had come into being only after the Armenian genocide. As it turns out, it is an ancient country with a long history and unique language.)

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text 2019-03-24 02:31
New books added - HarperCollins and William Morrow

DONE - As BT said in a comment, Elentarri is on fire and did these too!  Thanks!

 

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text 2019-03-24 01:52
New books added - misc. HarperCollins imprints

DONE - Huge thanks to Elentarri for blazing through these.  :)

 

Batch #1:

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review 2019-03-23 23:26
Let's play cards...
Trick Roller - Cordelia Kingsbridge,Wyatt Baker

I'm a little late to the party with this series but that's a situation of my own making. I'm not sure really why but I got a notion in my head that I wanted to listen to this series on audio. So I held out...and held out...finally 'Kill Game'  was released on audio and I pounced on it like a hungry cougar...a really long in the tooth cougar...but that's another story for another day. 

 

Anyways, I loved listening to 'Kill Game' as an audio book. For me there's just something about hearing a mystery book on audio that makes it all the more enjoyable. In general I've discovered that if it's a mystery and I liked the e-book, if it's on audio chances are I'm going to love it...I'm going to say that's a me thing, but who knows maybe there are others who feel the same.

 

So here I am listening to book #2 in Cordelia Kingsbridge's 'Seven of Spades' series and you know what...I mean aside from the fact that I loved it, this is an exercise in determination because damned if I don't want to got read every freakin' review out there but I've been refraining because sadly I've also learned that everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a spoiler so I've been restricting myself to checking out ratings only and then I move on but once I get done here I'm going to go read my friends reviews for this one and see what they're thoughts are because a lot of my friends read this one quite a while ago and if their ratings are anything to go but...which they usually are they loved it just as much or more than I have and I'm curious to find out why.

 

While I really, really liked this one...I have to admit I enjoyed 'Kill Game' just an isty, bitsy, teensy, weensy bit more....like an almost negligible amount but that's ok it often happens with series and it's such a marginally small amount that I'm not even going to try and define it. I'm just going to talk about how much I loved seeing Levi and Dominic's relationship grow, how much I enjoyed the way the mystery unfolded in this one and the inevitable out come of what unfolded...oh, and there was the court scene...Dominic's so awesome I'm giving him some serious brownie points for that one.

 

Levi and Dominic are becoming more and more committed to each other but it's not an easy go and neither of theses men are rushing to the alter they've both got their own jobs and friends to deal with and their own issues and some days it's just harder than others to juggle it all, but hey, it could be worse right 'The Seven of Spades Killer' could still out there but thankfully he's dead and gone right? or is he? If you ask anyone in Vegas they'll tell you yes...if you ask Levi or Dominic they'll tell you something else entirely.

 

I am so loving the mystery in this series I have to admit I do not have a freakin' clue whodunit? Seriously I got nothin' and I want to keep it that way until the bitter end...and that's a few books away for me. 

 

Wyatt Baker is once again the narrator for this series and  while he's no longer a new to me narrator this is only the third book of his that I've listened to and I think he's definitely growing on me. I know his voices for both Levi and Dominic are firmly entrenched in my brain and I'm honestly hoping that I get to enjoy the rest of the series with him. I've found his narration to be solid and consistent which may not sound like much but for me it's an important thing I need my Levi to continue sounding like Levi and not suddenly turn into Mickey Mouse on me, or for Dominic to suddenly sound like Popeye or even worse to suddenly have everyone sound the same or monotone...nothing spoils a good story quicker than listening to a voice that's so uninspired it puts you to sleep, right? Thankfully, that is not the case here.

 

I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series on audio so cross your fingers for me that release day comes soon...if not I might have to break down and read the e-book...not that this would stop me from enjoying the audio book when it's released... because maybe I've read the book and then listened to the audio once or twice or a dozen or so times. It's another thing I do and I know I'm not the only one who does this because as well all know a good story needs to enjoyed more than once just so you can get all the details.

 

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An audio book of 'Trick Roller' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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