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Search tags: 501-must-read
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text 2018-07-23 05:53
The Flat Book Society: Reminder to vote (again) for September book

Just a quick reminder for all members of The Flat Book Society to check in with the voting list to vote for a new September read (one that's hopefully easy to source for most of us).  There are some very good suggestions, if I do say so myself (and that's unbiased, since the titles I seeded the list with are all at the bottom of the voting, lol).  

 

Get in there and have your say.

 

Huggins says Vote!

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review 2018-07-22 22:48
Loved the Assassin's Theme!
Assassin's Heart - Sarah Ahiers

***Spoilers ahead you’ve been warned***

 

The world building is really well done with different Families pitted against each other and each one wanting to rise up in the ranks to gain more influence and power. There’s elements of fantasy, as it also involves deities and Gods (each city has their own patron deity). Lea has Safraella for example, who happens to be the Goddess of her city and protects her followers from the ghosts that frequent outside during the night. I loved this concept as it kept the world interesting and played a large role in Lea’s character.

 

Speaking of Lea. I really enjoyed her as a character. She’s fiercely loyal, headstrong, and her skills are on point. She’s a survivor and once she sets her goals, she does it. Despite all she goes through, she continues to keep going. I love her devotion to Safraella. It may seem fanatical to some but it’s what kept her advancing into her plot for revenge. (Also, she wouldn’t have the drive to go find Les and Marcello)

 

Although I rather liked Lea and Val together but well he just had to go ahead and do that thing didn’t he but well, Family before family right? Les and Lea were all right. Not the ideal chemistry that I thought she had with Val, but it’s still sweet nevertheless. I can’t say I enjoyed reading the romance in the book though. It felt awkward and out of the place (do we really have time for this when revenge is priority??) and I didn’t care too much for reading about that. I preferred the plotting and surprises that were in store for Lea with the Da Vias.

 

Aside from the awkward moments of romance, the plot itself was great. It’s got good amounts of action and drama to keep the reading going, and the excellent world building really helps in this case. I especially liked the encounter with Lea and the Goddess Safraella herself. The last third part of the book closed nicely (bwahaha! Revenge was sweet!!!!)

 

I’m looking forward to the second book, I’d like to know what happens next considering what Lea chose to do.

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review 2018-07-22 17:34
The Ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila
The Ultimate Tragedy - Jethro Soutar,Abdulai Sila

In 2017, this book apparently became the first novel (though more of a novella really, clocking in around 180 pages) from Guinea-Bissau to be translated into English. It doesn’t do too well in the storytelling department, and despite being first published in 1995 it is a simplistic criticism of Portuguese colonialism (Guinea-Bissau became independent in 1973-1974), so I can see why there wasn’t a rush to translate. But of course there’s something to be said for reading voices from a particular place even if their literary merits are weak.

There will be SPOILERS below, though no more than are found in the book description (which gives away most of the story).

The book begins with a teenage girl, Ndani, traveling from her village to the capital city, Bissau, with hopes of becoming a domestic servant in a Portuguese home. After a few chapters, it skips abruptly to a village chief, smarting over an insult from a colonial official and thinking at great, repetitive length about the paramount importance of thinking. The stories come together when the chief marries Ndani (who has somehow learned to be a great lady by being a housegirl, yet is somehow the only such woman available even though the earlier chapters show that there are plenty of housegirls, and Ndani is not the brightest bulb on the tree). Then she falls in love with a local teacher, a young man trained by priests but questioning the righteousness of colonial rule. Tragedy, naturally, ensues.

The story is kind of a mess, unfortunately. It skips long periods of time without giving any sense of what Ndani’s life was like in the interim, leaving unanswered questions in its wake. Ndani’s abrupt shift from housegirl to fancy lady is not particularly convincing, nor did I find her cheerful willingness to jump right into sex believable from a woman whose only sexual experiences were rape. There’s a prophecy about Ndani that causes people to shun her, until they don’t, with no reason I could see for the change of heart other than that this plot device was no longer needed. Being in the chief’s head is tedious due to the long-winded repetition, and the teacher’s realization that the reality of colonial rule is inconsistent with Christian principles is painfully obvious; decades after colonial rule ended, I doubt this was a new idea to the book’s readers.

The translation is fairly smooth, but a number of words and concepts are left untranslated, and these are not always immediately obvious from context; most of these words appear to be from a local African language and were probably untranslated in the Portuguese original too, but a glossary would help foreign readers understand the references to local culture better.

Ultimately, this is a fairly quick and easy read, but the simplistic political commentary dominates over the story; I missed more of Ndani’s life than I saw, never got to know who she was as a person, and had no particular reason to care about her or anyone else in the story (her mistress was perhaps the most interesting character to me - a Portuguese woman who, after a near-death experience, devotes herself to "improving the natives" - but this character doesn't have the space to fully develop). I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you are specifically looking to read a book from Guinea-Bissau. If you are, this is a readable option.

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review 2018-07-22 15:29
Review: “Little Boy Afraid: A Boystown Prequel” (Boystown Mysteries, #0.75) by Marshall Thornton
Little Boy Afraid: A Boystown Prequel - Marshall Thornton

 

~ 3.5 stars ~

 

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review 2018-07-22 04:12
The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee
The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions - Thomas McNamee

This book alternated between being compulsively readable and making me wonder where the heck the author was trying to go with things. There is a lot of interesting information but sometimes it was like the author was confused about whether he should be arguing to deal with cats in a certain way, or he'd bounce around topics while really you just wanted to know whether he found his cat Augusta safe and sound in the end after one of her little escapades. I really wish he had just stopped letting her go outside. I couldn't take the suspense.

 

The infamous chapter 7, while sad, was quite good, and made me bump up my rating from 2.5 stars.

 

I guess I'd describe the book as being about understanding cats rather than being about cats, with a bit of science thrown in.

 

Previous updates:

72 of 235 pages (Balou likes to be loud)

7 of 235 pages (questionable cat hearing data)

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