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review 2017-06-03 17:32
Unspoken: The Lynburn Legacy, by Sarah Rees Brennan
Unspoken - Sarah Rees Brennan

Kami Glass lives in a small town in the Cotswolds of England where the Lynburns, an old family with deep and mysterious roots in the community, have just returned. People are unhappy about it, including Kami's mother, but Kami doesn't care: she's an aspiring reporter on the trail of a story for her high school paper (founded by herself and reluctant best friend, Angela), which becomes even more fascinating (and dangerous) when she comes across an animal sacrifice in the woods.


Kami has a secret of her own: she has a sort of imaginary friend with whom she communicates in her mind. This (male) friend has his own problems, and the two "reach" for each other psychically in times of need. This friend, of course, turns out to be real and a Lynburn. I anticipated as much but was still surprised by whom it turned out to be and when the reveal was made. The two struggle with the reality that the other is an actual person; their strange intimacy is not always welcome. Their bond turns out to be magical in nature and tied to the Lynburns and Kami's family.


Threats in town escalate, and Kami's at the center. In the meantime, she's also at the center of love triangle involving the two Lynburn boys. The triangle isn't terribly emphasized, but Kami's relationship with her former imaginary companion yo-yos between easy repartee and angsty denial of feelings. It got old.


Somehow I didn't feel involved enough in the mystery, and the tension didn't come across as it should. In part this may be because, as in other YA I've read, the story is somewhat rushed or condensed, including the quicksilver of the characters' changing emotions.


There's some fine prose, one of the book's saving graces, and lots of banter. It's not quite as successful as Whedon dialog or Veronica Mars, but it can be funny. It also got to be a bit much.


Kami's also one of those typical YA heroines whose friends are gorgeous, and she's supposedly less pretty but still somehow at the center of a love triangle involving the new hot guy. One of the most sincere moments is when Kami observes how each of her younger brothers is a favorite of her parents', leaving her odd person out.


I like YA but am coming to find it has to be exceptional to even be okay for me. Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood!

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review 2014-11-21 21:41
Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer
Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer

I'm marking this "finished," though I'm just over halfway through, because I'm finished with it. I read a sample before buying, and it intrigued me, but as I continued to read, the structure of the book, the characters, and the writing itself were all a disappointment. Judging from the other reviews I peeked at, it won't get any better and isn't worth finishing to resolve the mystery. Perhaps that's because it's the first part in a trilogy, perhaps not.


This book wants to be weird, atmospheric, and creepy, but it's only boring and cliche, sorry to say.

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review 2014-07-31 16:03
The Last Policeman, by Ben H. Winters
The Last Policeman - Ben H. Winters

The speculative premise of this book is what drew me to it: an asteroid on a crash course with Earth and how that affects law and order. Those elements also turned out to be my favorite as I read--not just how the government and law enforcement would change with a world-changing disaster a year away, but how people live more generally. The collapse (essentially) of the economy. Increased suicides. Increased drug and alcohol use.


Henry Palace, the first person narrator, is a detective, one of those guys meant to be one. He's meticulous and one of the only members of the police force in Concord, New Hampshire, to follow a suspected murder case (as opposed to the suicide it's assumed to be) as if it still matters. The book can read a bit like a noir detective story, which may or may not be your cup of tea (it's less my cup). But I liked him and his diligence.


The case he works takes lots of turns, some of which I saw coming, many of which I didn't. Sometimes the story is structured so that Palace knows what's going on, but there's a bit of a tease before the reader finds out; that was a little annoying to me, though you're not strung along for too long.


I liked the book; it was enjoyable enough. I saw that there's at least one more book set in this world, though I didn't love this novel enough to want to check out the next in the series. Sometimes one book's enough.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-04-17 21:22
The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
The Strain (Strain Trilogy #1) -

I adjust my expectations when I read genre fiction, but I generally am able to have fun as a reader. Depending on the genre, I do look for certain qualities, but I additionally recognize that I have particular tastes and responses (for example, it's hard to scare me, but I value being disturbed more anyway).


However, some things I'm never going to accept, and one is shoddily drawn female characters and sexism. That's my biggest beef with this book, and it's part of a larger issue that develops near the story's end, which is that it gets more cliche in general as it goes on. One of the reasons I decided to read it when I did (I've had the book for a while) was that I learned it had been adapted into a TV series set to debut this summer. The way the climax is reached and unfolds, it felt more like a summer blockbuster.


The book shifts (third person) perspective between many characters, but in the end, it's three men who team up to fight the Master--Eph, Setrakian, and Fet. Eph's primary motivation is finding his ex-wife, Kelly, who's missing and likely taken by the Master or his vamps. Kelly was one of the characters whose perspective we're given throughout the story; she and Eph have a son, and they've been fighting over his custody. Eph is a CDC doctor who learns that the plague he's fighting is vampirism. He warns Kelly to take their son and leave immediately; however, she doesn't at the behest of her boyfriend, Matt. In other words, Kelly is vindictive and stupid who is then made a damsel in distress; at the end of the book, she is literally demonized.


Then there's Eph's fellow CDC team member, Nora, with whom he also has an ill-defined romance. Nora's along on many adventures but may as well be window dressing for as much as she's characterized or has any agency. She "stays home" with Eph's son during the final confrontation with the Master. Ugh.


My favorite part of this book (because I did actually enjoy some of it!) was the beginning--unraveling the mystery of the plane and its passengers. It was creepy and strange. I also like what one of the book's blurbs points out as a unique take on the vampire, likening it to 28 Days Later in that a virus is involved; there is a biology.


I hope the TV show on FX does a better job fleshing out the female characters.

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review 2012-08-19 00:00
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy, Book 1)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

Despite knowing the outcome of the central mystery, it was still worthwhile getting to know some of the characters better, particularly Lisbeth. The writing itself is awfully dry, but that may be the translation, and I wasn't expecting much. I was curious beforehand about how graphic the book would be in describing the rapes and other gruesome details, especially as compared to seeing them portrayed in the two movie versions. The book could at once be less and more graphic. And while Lisbeth is an intriguing character, Mikael is definitely too much of a superhero or "perfect" guy--the character men are meant to identify with since all the chicks dig him and we ladies are meant to love. You know, because he doesn't hate women.

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