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review 2017-05-10 03:56
The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds (Atria Books) - H.G. Wells

I'm sure if I were alive in 1897 when this was first published, the long drawn-out passages of endless details would've blown my socks off. H. G. Wells certainly did have a healthy imagination, and the average reader back then wouldn't have anything to compare this to. The details would've been necessary. But in a world where we have thousands of alien invasion books and movies, including that recent "adaptation" of this book with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, I found myself wishing that Wells would stop setting the scene and just get to the point already.

 

The first several chapters are all setup. When the action finally gets underway, it's well-written and well-paced, and the vividness of Wells' writing is appreciated then. And then the action will be over and goes back to its previous dragging pace. The narrator is never given a name, nor much of a personality since he spends most of his time describing what everyone else is doing. He's just a TSTL dude from a podunk town outside London, and he's clearly not prepared for these alien shenanigans. 

He really is TSTL. He gets his wife out of town after the killing starts, and then he GOES BACK for no other reason than to see what happens. The fact he doesn't die disproves Darwinism.

(spoiler show)

 

I found myself comparing this to other alien movies I've seen, and figuring that Independence Day is the closest update of this book. (I can't comment on the Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning movie, since neither of those actors inspires me to go to the movie theatre.) I also wondered what a movie would look like if it was actually set at the same time as the book in the late 1800s - and then remembered Cowboys and Aliens. :D

 

The narrator, James Spencer, was decent. He was easy to follow along though his dialogue was stilted. The cool thing about him is that his voice had a very Cecil-esque tone to it, which made me really wish that Cecil Baldwin, who voices the podcast program Welcome to Night Vale, would narrate this story at some point. Given its broadcast history when Orson Welles decided to update the story in 1938, it just seems too meta to not happen. 

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review 2017-03-11 03:09
Just Juliet
Just Juliet - Charlotte Reagan

This was just okay. It was all very...nice. And simple. And low angst. All problems were safely in the past. All new problems were easily surmounted and quickly put behind them.

 

The first third was promising. Lena finds out she's attracted to a girl, doesn't freak out, does some googling and instead of going GFY figures out she's bisexual. So that was good. The James's are a great, fun, close-knit family. Lena and Juliet's first date was pretty rad and adorable.

 

And then it just sort of meanders and keeps going way past the point it should have ended because there really wasn't much of a plot. It goes through all the tradition coming out tropes - telling the bestie, telling the family, telling the world - but there's no real emotion to anything. We're told what Lena's feeling, but I never felt it myself. Scott and Lakyn were...confusing. Scott is a well-rounded character and very mature and provides Lena with some good advice. Lakyn, who has been through some terrible times, is shy and a jerk and whenever he speaks, I kept seeing him as twelve instead of seventeen. But as a couple, other than being the cute gay couple, they didn't really add anything to the story.

 

The writing is technically pretty good, though dry, just a few stray typos and just one or two questionable word choices. There's a lot of telling in the later part of the book, versus showing. The characters are pretty one-note, and the way Lacey, the "token black kid," is introduced doesn't get improved upon as the story progresses. I know all these kids are, well, kids, but even my friends weren't throwing around this many sexist slurs when we were that age. Every single time any girl (usually Lacey) did anything questionable or assertive or not-nice, she's described as bitchy. Really? I don't know if the author is aware of the "black girls are more promiscuous" stereotype, but Lacey unfortunately inhabits that too. And the gay "jokes" were pretty terrible and also usually spoken by Lacey. Lacey just gets terrible treatment through most of the book. For a "gay friendly" book, there is a lot of low-key homophobia. 

 

This started promising but just became meh by the end and I had to force myself to finish.

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review 2017-03-03 14:04
Call in the Night ★★☆☆☆
Call in the Night - Susan Howatch

A sensible Manhattan schoolteacher is drawn overseas by a panicked call from her sister. On arrival, the sister seems to have vanished, and our heroine tries to unravel the mystery, although she takes plenty of time to sightsee around Paris and enjoy plenty of cocktails and dinners with the charming stranger that had last been in her sister’s company. The tension ratchets up when she discovers that everyone is lying to her, and she realizes that she has fallen so deeply in love with the charming stranger over the course of 3 days that she doesn’t even consider 

calling the police when she literally digs up the body of his ex-fiance out of his garden

(spoiler show)

.   It’s not badly written, and as stupid as the insta-love is and as puzzling as all the characters’ motivations are, I was sort of enjoying it until the last couple of chapters, in which the mystery is revealed much like a Scooby Doo cartoon, where everyone shows up and offers long monologues explaining everything. Then everybody lives happily ever after, except the murdered and the murderer.

 

Read for the 2017 Romance Bingo. I had intended to use this for the Gothic Romance square, because the author is a writer of gothics and the cover art (I own the version below) certainly looked gothic, but this story was missing most of the key elements of gothic literature. The applicable squares are:
Insta-love: The heroine and her mysterious stranger are madly in love within 3 days, despite the concern of missing sisters and dead bodies turning up
Love is Murder: crimes of passion galore

 

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review 2017-03-03 13:40
The Call of the Canyon ★★☆☆☆
The Call of the Canyon - Zane Grey

The best parts of this book are the beautifully detailed descriptions of the landscape and the characters’ interactions with it. The story itself is problematic. Contrary to the author’s intent, I really liked Carley through most of the story. Although she was a little self-absorbed, she was spunky and independent and determined. When she arrived out West, she stubbornly pushed herself to cope with the physical hardships she was unused to, to prove to herself and to the man she loved that she was no “tenderfoot”. Her dawning appreciation of the beauty of the landscape was enjoyable to witness. Then it all went to hell when she began embracing the author’s (and her fiancé’s) ridiculous ideas about the duties of  “American women”, which include giving birth to a “troop of healthy American kids” (I shit you not, that is a direct quote) and serving as her “American man’s” helper as he strove to build civilization in the West, while dressing modestly and unfashionably, so as to not distract the men from their own duties, and not pursuing any interests of their own. This whole modesty concept is reinforced through a running commentary by all Western characters on her fashionable city dresses being so revealing. This being set around 1920, this wanton display included rolled stocking and exposed calves. And a woman so dressed should be neither surprised nor upset when sexually assaulted. Instead, she should be upset with herself for inviting such a natural response from men.

 

I try to judge all books by the mores of the times in which they are written, but remember that this was published within a year of The Great Gatsby, which also had some things to say about 1920’s decadence, but none of it was about women staying in their place behind their menfolks and pushing out packs of kids and covering their legs so they don’t invite assault.

 

Audiobook, read by John Bolen. The audio quality was poor, with a lot of static and background noise, and Bolen’s performance was unimpressive. He sounded uninterested in the material, and the voice he used for Carley was a really strange sort of faux-British accent that I guess was supposed to represent an upperclass, East Coast, voice. Rating 2 stars only because I was able to finish and for the way the landscape was brought to life.

 

Read for the 2017 Romance Bingo. It fits the following bingo squares:

Key to My Heart:

Because the MC has a complete change of heart once she embraces her lover’s philosophy and way of life.

(spoiler show)

It unlocks her happiness and purpose in life.

Wedding Bells: Because the whole point was to get him to marry her, and apparently, marriage was the only acceptable quest.

Historical Romance: Post WWI. Although it was actually a contemporary romance at the time it was written, so maybe not.

Second Chances:

She rejects his way of life and breaks the engagement, then goes running back after her change of heart, hoping that he hasn’t already married another. Of course, HEA, with her barefoot and pregnant for as long as she’s fertile.

(spoiler show)
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review 2017-03-03 13:28
The Exile ★★☆☆☆
The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel - Diana Gabaldon,Hoang Nguyen

I’m really not familiar enough with the graphic novel format to judge it on its merits as such, so I’m only going to remark on how well I enjoyed it, or more accurately, did not enjoy it.

Although the story is told primarily from Murtaugh’s POV rather than Claire’s, it seems very much like the story I remember from reading Outlander many years ago. Of course, we get how much Murtaugh distrusts her and disapproves of Jamie’s relationship with her, but we already knew that. There’s also a new character added, who doesn’t seem to add much to the story. I didn’t find the artwork very impressive. At least, it didn’t especially help me to connect with the characters or the story. Overall, the book was okay. I’m not sure how someone who isn’t already familiar with the story would have enjoyed it.

I read this for the 2017 Romance Bingo. It would fit several of the squares:
Insta-love: Jamie desperately wants Claire and is willing to risk death to be with her within a few hours of meeting her.
Blown Away: The characters on the cover are certainly windblown, and in several of the panels the characters appear to be battling a high wind, although that just may be how the artist portays action.
Key to My Heart: If I’m interpreting this square correctly, Jamie and Claire are soul-mates, and their love enables them to share dreadful secrets that they hold very close.
Man in a Kilt: Every freakin’ panel has plaid or kilts, although there is a disappointing lack of hairy dude-knees
Eyeshadow and Heaving Bosoms: Claire’s boobs seem to swell and shrink throughout the book, but at times she could give Dolly Parton a run for her money. The artwork also seems to have gifted them with their own independent motion. They might even be sentient, they’re so lively.
Virgin Best First Time: This time, it’s the guy who’s the virgin, and the panel of them mid-coitus is hilariously captioned with a white thought-bubble over Jamie’s head, “Holy God!”
Wedding Bells: The whole plot revolves around the forced marriage trope
Historical Romance: Time-travel to the 1700s

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