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review 2017-05-27 21:17
Mind Snooze
Baby on the Oregon Trail (Harlequin Historical Romance) - Lynna Banning

I'm having trouble staying focused, so I decided on a read decidedly less taxing for my mind and soul than Wharton (Age of Innocence left me wreaked) for my Victorian Era Booklikes-opoly roll (this one's set in 1867).


This was a quick and easy read that asked for no effort. It was bland and put me in a state of numbness akin to boredom such that I didn't even get annoyed at some of the silly bits. About the only thing I liked was the 11-year-old-girl's pluck. So not the book for me.


That said, it's not objectively BAD. It just felt flat for me. I was expecting something more, a better use of the elements, and they are plenty that could have panned so interestingly.



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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-03-13 17:21
Review: The Flow by Caroline Martin
The Flow - Caroline J. Martin


I was very kindly provided this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. Cheers guys - I never win anything !! Look - even my dog was excited to receive this in the mail !!


I think the best way to describe The Flow by Caroline J Martin is bland. This book is oatmeal. It's school uniform. It's a cream carpet. It's just blah.


The Flow is the story of Britain, economically collapsed and resurrected by the ultra-religious Optimus party, a political party hellbent on control of the population through brainwashing and harsh punishment. Lexi and a group of friends begin to see through the cracks of the teachings of the Optimus party when they realise that some of the information on the Flow, their version of the internet, isn't quite right. From there we are led a merry dance as Lexi and her new bestie, Lukas work to unravel the mystery of the lies that have been told to them and their society.


I think the premise is really good, sure. But the execution? I'm not so sure. The author states at the back of the book:


One reason I wrote this book was to encourage young people - especially young girls - to be interested in science and how it can improve our lives.


And boy does it show. There's nothing wrong with this noble quest in pursuit of education for the brats (and I use that term oh-so affectionately) but when the same point is laboured over and over again, and there's a lengthy explanation of Darwin's theory of evolution and the discovery of the structure of DNA right where you'd expect the action to be sitting ..... well, that's just irritating. Having a suggestion of science, an introduction that encourages kids to want to discover more: good. Telling me three or four times the basic ins and outs of Avian flu: not so good.


British society, under the control of the Optimus party, has transformed into some hideous cult-like organisation with enforced worship and compulsory prayer. Citizens must attend the Sacellum twice daily to hear the teachings of the prophet Nathaniel Jeffries as whispered to him by the Creator. If anyone dares to question these teachings they are treated to a very public lashing, and this includes little kids. WTF?!! I had a hard time getting my head around the world building as a whole to be honest - why are the people accepting being treated this way? It's nonsensical. And what's going on in the rest of the world that they have quite happily watched a once democratic and influential country fall at the wayside, prey to a power-hungry fanatically religious, dictatorial leader? Nope - I can't accept this as a reality.


We learn later that the citizens of this new and cray-cray Britain have been brainwashed and had their memories wiped by the use of high frequency sound waves, invisible to the human ear. Uhm .... Really? Caroline Martin, honey - you want kids interested in science? Great! But how about doing some scientific research of your own and come up with a method by which the population could have had their memories tampered with in a way that's actually believable. I've not read such nonsense since I was assured that Florida survived catastrophically rising sea levels in that masterpiece, Wither by Lauren Destephano .....


So, lumped with this absurd society we battle on and meet Lexi. I think the best way to describe Lexi is lacklustre. There's nothing particularly stand out about her. She's not very interesting. We're promised she has an inquiring mind:


"We think you may have the analytical abilities that we will need to work out what is going on"


Ben informs Lexi, after summoning her to his home in an effort to recruit her to his cause of discovering the truth behind the factual inconsistencies he and his faceless sidekicks think they have noticed in the Flow. Now Ben, flattery will get you nowhere. Especially when said flattery in merely fantasy. There's nothing about Lexi that screams unusually intelligent. There's some vague explanation along the lines of "you got a bunch of gold stars at school so you must be smart" and "your Mom is kinda good at mathematics, so you must be too right?" but really, it smells an awful lot like Special Snowflake syndrome. Lexi is special because she is. Despite the fact that not one of the book's mysteries are actually solved by Lexi herself - Lukas uses his brain (as a boy he is able to you see) to work out where the hidden library is and how to get there and he's the one who puts together the information about the vaccine with Lexi just kind of stumbling along behind him, wringing her hands and worrying about bats getting caught in her hair (that doesn't really happen by the way).


There's not a lot that can be said about Lexi's abilities to be honest because she ain't got none. She's alright as a heroine - she doesn't fall in love with Lukas or Ben, while yes, she's kinda self centred, she also manages to have some considerate thoughts towards her mother and her friends and she shows some genuine concern for the fate of her neighbours and the other townspeople - but she just has this personality void. I imagined her to have these dead, vacant eyes; staring out at the world in perpetual mild confusion because she's just so incredibly blah. Her favourite pastimes include listening to music under the duvet with her friend Tish, eating popcorn and seeing a movie every Saturday night. If Ben hadn't approached her and drowned her in flattery I highly doubt she would have made any kind of move to discover the lies of the Flow herself because, while she's very good at following other people around, attempt to stand her up on her own and she promptly falls flat on her face like the cardboard cutout she is. She had zero initiative.


Lukas was marginally better in terms of get-up-and-go but he was still entirely faceless, with no family or friends besides Lexi and barely a single independent thought in his head. I mean, these kids don't even go to school. There's some mention of classmates and they seem to have an endless supply of homework but do they ever appear to actually set foot inside the school gates? Nope. I did enjoy Lukas' discovery in the hidden library though. That was sorta cool. He and Lexi trek down there and find a whole bunch of banned books about science. The Optimus party's extremist religious stance had completely denounced science as witchcraft and evil and against the Creator's wishes (yeah, we're stepping back several centuries in thinking, reasoning and research here. For some reason) and every member of society has been forced to accept that modern medicine and understanding of how the world works is redundant when prayer will, in fact, cure all. Okaaaay. It's a bit wild, but their realisation that perhaps what they have been taught is illogical and backwards is interesting and the description of the hidden library is pretty awesome - one copy of every book ever written ?!! Sounds like heaven !!!


The ending was ..... I don't know. The ending was inexplicable. An old abandoned hospital with everything left exactly as it had been a decade previously? Security cameras in said hospital still function perfectly? Microphones on said security cameras for a start, present and for a second, picking up precisely the right incriminating sentence at precisely the right time? It was all a little too inconvenient. There wasn't really enough actual threat for me to muster more than a "meh" in response to what was happening, especially when as a whole, the book was as bland as cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.


One thing I absolutely loved about The Flow was the packaging. The cover art isn't particularly inspiring, but the paper the cover is made from is wonderful! It's soft and thick, as are the pages, and the type is shiny with the paper a proper sharp white. Very impressive.


I have no drive to continue with this series (I believe it's a trilogy) because sure, it wasn't terrible but it made me feel tired. It wasn't hugely boring as the pacing was good and every plot point advanced the story. I just ..... I don't even know. It was 2D. That's probably the most accurate description. There was a lack of depth and it was devoid of any real feeling or urgency.




I hope everyone is having a magical March !! See y'all after !!




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review 2014-01-26 21:05
Review: Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson
Claire de Lune - Christine Johnson

My partner and I love to take road trips. Sometimes for a specific reason, sometimes for no reason at all except to feel a little freer. It can be a bit claustrophobic living downtown, all the buildings pressing in on you and surrounded by neighbours who talk to their hands and insist on leaving couches lying in the street outside our apartment building. A couch has no place outdoors. However, I don't drive. So it's always left down to my partner to get us safely to out destination and scarily this can be somewhat dicey as he always, inexplicably falls asleep at the wheel. I'm not talking after hours of driving in the dark, the street lights all bleeding into one as his eyes grow heavy due to the endless concentration. I'm talking about at like, 2 o'clock in the afternoon, an hour into our journey. I ask him why?!! How does this happen every time?!! He tells me the motion of the car, the sounds of the engine lull him to sleep. What?!! My partner has been driving for 25 years, you'd think he would have learned by now that whilst driving is not an ideal time to take a nap. It's kind of a necessity that while your controlling what is potentially a lethal weapon weighing over a ton that you fucking stay awake!! So my task for our little impromptu trips is always to shake him every 10 minutes, open and close the windows and crank the radio right up. Sorta takes some of the magic out of the day when I'm wondering at what point we're gonna end up in the ditch.


You know another situation where it's beneficial not to fall asleep? Whilst reading. Sure, it's not life threatening if you happen to nod off with a book in your hand, but it sure helps you make some headway into the story if every time you pick it up, the next thing you remember is not waking up in a puddle of drool, a painful crick in your neck and desperately wondering what you're now late for this time.


Claire de Lune is like a sedative. Every time I sat down to read it my head grew heavy, my limbs turned to lead, my breathing got deeper until I was fast asleep and my pets saw their opportunity to sink their claws into my leather couch, eat my house plants and play all the other pranks they delight in having me wake up to when they spy that I decided to take an afternoon nap. If you have trouble falling asleep, your problems will be over if you pick up this book.


You'll also enjoy it if you love reading about constant mother-daughter arguments, diving into giant plot holes and logic leaps and listening to a teenager angst and fret for 336 pages. If this doesn't sound like your idea of an engaging and enthralling adventure, then step away from the book.


Claire is having just the bestest time ever at her wicked 16th birthday party when - Oh My Gawd - she begins turning into a werewolf, all the while falling for Hawt Matthew. Claire's mother reveals that night that her family are part of an ancient bloodline of werewolves, all the women beginning their transformation at 16 years old. All of a sudden Plain Claire's life gets a lot more interesting - she must learn to deal with the reality of her true identity and figure out a way to keep it a secret from nice-but-dull Matthew and her best friend, Stereotype Emily. And the worst of it? There's a rogue werewolf on the loose, murdering innocent townspeople and Matthew's father, as some top scientist guy, is leading the hunt to track down and rid the town of werewolves forever.

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review 2014-01-23 11:21
Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
The Immortal Rules - Julie Kagawa

If you loved Twilight, I've got a feeling you'll hate The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. There's vampires in both. And a bland love interest. That's where the similarities end. Because where Twilight is packed with simpering, soggy romance, hormonal staring and shivering, The Immortal Rules is filled with bloodied heads rolling along dusty floors, wild eyed zombies clawing for a beating heart to chew on and burning buildings collapsing to ash around us.


Allison is a street kid, struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by vampires. Humans live a caged existence, trapped in cities under the guise of protection by the vampires from the Rabids, that prowl beyond the wall, created by Red Lung virus which has swept the earth, killing the vast majority of the population. In reality, these humans are used like cattle as a source of food for the vampires who bleed the Registered regularly to sustain themselves, leaving the Unregistered, like Allison to fend for themselves, starving and without shelter. Following a near-death experience, Allison is transformed into a vampire by the formidable master vampire, Kanin only to be driven from the city, alone in the wilderness when it transpires that he is the most wanted vampire in the city due to his involvement in the downfall of humanity. Wandering and somewhat desperate, Allison happens upon a band of travelling humans searching for the safety of Eden, a city apparently existing without vampire intervention where humans can live free and at peace. A whole lotta shit goes down as Allison struggles to hang on to her humanity as the monster inside her becomes increasingly desperate to be released.

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text 2014-01-08 03:52
Best of 2013 and 1913, Part Four: 1913, the first installment
Virginia (Dodo Press) - Ellen Glasgow
Le Grand Meaulnes - Alain-Fournier,Frank Davison
Sons and Lovers - D.H. Lawrence
The Tale of Pigling Bland - Beatrix Potter
The Patchwork Girl of Oz - L. Frank Baum,John R. Neill
The Little Nugget - P.G. Wodehouse

Moscow firemen in 1913 (according to teh interwebz)

Ah, it's 1913. There'll never be another war. Although if you live in Mexico, Pancho Villa is leading a revolution. If you are Emily Davison, British suffragette, you make a slight miscalculation and are trampled to death by a race horse as you attempts to drop a banner on it. If you're a Norwegian woman, though, you may now vote. If you are the House of Lords, you reject an Irish Home Rule bill, and then on "Bloody Sunday" police injure 400 people in Dublin. If you live in New York, you get a new, uglier Grand Central Terminal and also the Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the world! If you live in Dayton, Ohio, a flood destroys your home. You lucky American, you may also smoke your first packaged cigarette (a Camel.) If you are a balletomane in Paris, you riot when you see Diaghilev's Rite of Spring, set to Stravinsky. If you are tired of the Ottoman empire, you attend an Arab conference with other Arab nationalists. If you are Black in South Africa, you are officially outlawed from owning land. If you live in Copenhagen, you enjoy a beautiful new statue of The Little Mermaid. If you are a miner in Wales, you may be killed in an explosion; if you are an Indian miner in South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi leads you on a march. If you are Greece, you annex Crete, which had just barely shaken off Turkey. If you are Woodrow Wilson, you sign the Federal Reserve into existence. If you are Yuan Shikai, you are the first elected president of the Republic of China.


But what will you read to while away the hours?


Virginia by Ellen Glasgow

A forgotten masterpiece about a woman named Virginia from Virginia who has an "ordinary" life with marriage and children. The downfall of this marvelous book: racism. My long review here.

It's on the table, next to my cat.

Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier (also called The Wanderer)

I read this book in 1998 and I remember how beautiful and haunting it was and what a special experience it was to read it, but I remember almost nothing about the plot. There was a little boy. . . another boy. . . a school. . . a house. . . a party. . . . a girl. . . a journey. That might not even be right. It wasn't about the plot. I think it was about innocence.

I just inherited my mother's two copies, one in English and one in French. I remember we talked about it when I read it and she told me how much she loved this novel. You can tell she loved it, because she didn't read French but she had a French copy.

From L to R: my original copy, my mom's copy, my mom's copy in French.

Her bookplate.

Sons & Lovers by DH Lawrence

I read this in the mid-1990's, so once again I don't remember it well. It's about a sensitive, artistic boy who doesn't fit into his working class family (his father is a miner?) but he's very close to his mother. As I recall, there is some sex and it seemed very emotionally authentic.


The Tale of Pigling Bland by Beatrix Potter

I did read this as a child, but what I chiefly remember is that we had a record of Claire Bloom reading it out loud. She really gave a killer performance, bringing all the depth and meaning to the surface. The parts I remember best: "Beware of bacon, cream, and eggs. Always walk on your hind legs!" and the ending (sorry for spoiler) "Over the hills and far away, she danced with Pigling Bland." I think it's about a pig who goes on an errand, gets into trouble, meets another pig, and they escape.


The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum

One of three books the prolific Baum published in 1913. I remember this as one of the best of the Oz books. The Patchwork Girl is a stuffed doll brought to life for the convenience of humans, similar to the Scarecrow. My brother pointed out what a terrible conundrum it is that Ojo the Unlucky must break the most important rule of Oz (do not harm any living creatures) in order to save his uncle's life.


The Little Nugget by PG Wodehouse

Every book I have read by PG Wodehouse has been charming and diverting, and this was no exception. Until now I have mostly read Jeeves books so I was surprised at the differences in this one—specifically, that there was gunplay, a proper romance, and the main character was of near-average intelligence. There were two butlers though—but there’s something suspicious about one of them! My favorite character was Smooth Sam Fisher. The book design was lovely--the publisher was Overlook. Unfortunately there is one use of the “n word” which I think a good editor should take out in the next edition. Oh, I should say, the novel is about a kidnapping, or a series of attempted kidnappings. Agatha Christie said this was her favorite Wodehouse novel. But Wodehouse was very offended by this because he had written dozens more since then, so he thought that meant she hadn't read any of his later work. I bet she did, but she just liked this the best.



Up Next: More of the Best of 1913!

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