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review 2018-12-05 21:26
MunMun
Munmun - Jesse Andrews

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I admit I skim-read the last 25%; I tried to read more carefully, but at this point, either I skimmed or I DNFed, and I don’t like DNFing.

It is not without good ideas and potential, and it delivers good criticism of a society based on money: in this case, money literally defines your weight in the world, since the poorest people are tiny and get squished by just about anything and anyone, while the richest ones are so big that they tower over everyone and take a lot of space. The plight of the characters, too—the way they have to fight, the desperate schemes they come up with, are (unfortunately, realistically) close to reality, in that when you don’t have much, no matter how you try, your attempts are conditioned by the little means you have. (I do agree that “you have to make efforts to achieve your dreams”, but let’s be honest, it’s very easy to give lessons about how you managed to buy the house of your dreams when you got a nifty inheritance from your grandparents. Prayer’s plan to find herself a husband, as harebrained as it is, does reflect a desperate attempt at doing something with nothing.)

However, I couldn’t really connect with the characters, nor get into the writing style, which tends to combine words together. I get it, I get why it’s done, but for me, it’s jarring (took me a bit of time to realise that the “munmun” of the title is money, although that was because I wasn’t pronouncing it, only reading it at first). It’s like all those cutesy words like ‘preloved’ and ‘choccy’ and all that stuff which, for some reason, is considered as witty, but just falls flat as far as I’m concerned. After a while, I lose interest.

More like 1.5 stars for me, however, I do acknowledge that there are good ideas in here.

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review 2018-06-20 16:49
Thirteen
Thirteen - Steve Cavanagh

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Hmm… The premise sounded interesting, for sure (the killer’s not on trial, but in the jury!). However, the execution made it a little too far-fetched to my liking.

I didn’t know the ‘Eddie Flynn’ series before—this is actually the fourth book, although it’s not a problem: it reads as a standalone, and whatever background you need to know about Eddie (ex-con artist, estranged family…) is mentioned soon enough for a reader not to be confused at some missing backstory. I also quite liked the character himself, who in spite (or perhaps because of?) his past displays a strong moral fiber, and doesn’t abandon his clients even when everything conspires against them. Maybe he had a slight tendency to boast sometimes, but nothing too bad.

On the other hand, many of the other characters were really one-dimensional, almost caricatures: the famous lawyer who pulls out as soon as the deal’s not so juicy anymore, the prosecutor who’s only interested in fame and winning all his trials, corrupt cops… I was hoping that things would go differently with the jury consultant, since Eddie and him didn’t like each other, but acknowledged their respective skills and made efforts to work together; alas, this didn’t come to pass.

Most of all, I had trouble with the killer’s part of the story. He was too much of a villain with everything going for him: special abilities, smart, always prepared, always one step ahead, with contacts on the inside, able to bug the lawyer’s office, etc. There were no flaws in sight, nothing I could really use to build hypotheses as to what would be his downfall… And yet, paradoxically, even with all those aces in his sleeves, Flynn was still able to guess he was on the jury. I think this would’ve gone down better for me if it had been Kane’s first time only; his plot is quite complex, and interesting. But as a repeat plot, it didn’t work for me—his successes vs. what happens in the novel don’t add up.

Writing: The book was a fast read, not difficult to follow at all even if you don’t know much to US law procedures. The writing style was OK in places, annoying in others (too many short sentences will kill the rhythm just as much as too many long ones). There were typos, too, but I don't know if I got technically an ARC, or the final copy; if they're in the final copy, it's not good.

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review 2018-05-23 15:12
Les Fiancés de l'Hiver
Les Fiancés de l'Hiver - Christelle Dabos

Le livre se lit plutôt bien, en dépit de certaines maladresses stylistiques, et j'ai bien aimé la géographie du monde développé ici (monde au sujet duquel il reste sans nul doute beaucoup à découvrir dans les volumes suivants). De plus, les pouvoirs des différentes familles — lecture d'objets, transmission de pensée, illusions, mémoire... — se prêtent bien à pas mal d'intrigues et de développements.

Par contre, j'enlève de bases des étoiles ici car je ne supporte plus cette ficelle scénaristique maladroite qui consiste à faire de la rétention d'information sans raison valable. Ophélie se retrouve balancée dans un monde d'intrigues de cour où elle risque d'être au mieux déshonorée, si pas juste assassinée dans une alcôve, et sa nouvelle belle-famille l'y prépare donc en faisant... rien? Et lui reproche en plus de commettre des erreurs par ignorance. Ah si, elle reçoit des lecons de maintien et de diction. Super. Des leçons de diplomatie et de survie en milieu courtisan hostile auraient été plus utiles, ne serait-ce que pour la prévenir que "au fait, une de nos familles peut partager ses pensées, donc ce que tu dis à l'un d'eux, tous les autres le savent aussi". M'enfin moi je dis ça, je dis rien.

Résultat: l'intrigue se traîne, car en plus d'être enfermée la moitié du temps, Ophélie doit jouer le rôle d'une muette l'autre moitié (pratique pour poser des questions, tiens). Déjà pas bien bavarde à la base, pour le coup elle n'a vraiment plus grand chose d'intéressant, et subit les événements plutôt que de vraiment les déclencher pendant la majeure partie de l'histoire. Ses pouvoirs ne sont de plus pas vraiment bien exploités, à part quelques passages de miroirs.

Alors certes, cela permet de mettre en scène des actions et pas un énorme info-dump. MAIS. Mais. Il n'y a AUCUNE raison valable au silence de Thorn et de Bérénilde, silence qui met Ophélie encore plus en danger puisqu'elle reste ignorante des vraies menaces, et ne peut donc pas s'y préparer. (Ajoutons à cela le fait qu'Ophélie ne fait aucun effort pour essayer de connaître les gens et notamment son futur mqri, ce qui n'aide pas.) Ce roman n'est de loin pas le seul à avoir recours a cet artifice, cependant il serait grand temps que la fiction de facon générale s'en éloigne. En d'autres termes: c'est bien d'éviter d'avoir trop de scenes d'exposition, ce serait mieux que le moyen employé pour cela repose sur quelque chose de logique, au lieu de révéler un trou scénaristique.

L'autre gros problème pour moi a été la société, ou plutot les sociétes décrites:
- Anima: une matriarchie qui traite en fait ses femmes comme de la crotte. Aucun intérêt. En vrac: mariages arrangés, sois belle et tais-toi (ou bien tais-toi juste, en fait...), femmes "fortes" et "dominant leur mari" comme la mère d'Ophelie mais qui ne sont en fait que des caricatures dont le seul pouvoir se résumé a être épouses et mères... Si c'est pour véhiculer les mêmes clichés moisis qu'une société patriarcale, restons dans une société patriarcale, dans ce cas, ce sera un petit peu moins écoeurant.
- Le Pôle: toutes des salopes-courtisanes-intriguantes-séductrices. Sauf Ophélie, bien sûr, puisqu'elle est le seul personnage féminin qui ne s'intéresse pas au sexe, à l'amour, à la mode, et aux autres artifices "purement féminins". Déjà vu, déjà trop vu, on pourrait avoir autre chose que la trilogie vierge-mère-pute? Merci.

Ceci dit, au moins il n'y a pas de romance/triangle amoureux (pour le moment), ce qui est déjà plus que je n'ose en demander à un roman jeunesse ces dernières années.

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review 2018-05-14 19:30
The Feed
The Feed - Nick Clark Windo

I started this book beginning of March, I’ve just finished it now (mid-May)… I admit I had a very hard time staying focused and motivated to read it. Perhaps because of the absence of chapters (instead, we have scenes with breaks, and some of the scenes are pretty long), which was a bit of a turn-off for me.

The story has good themes: survival; the world as we know it ending; a technology (the Feed) both exciting and creepy; people trying to live in a community of their own after the fall; children getting abducted; and a mystery, a.k.a people being ‘taken’ in their sleep, effectively losing themselves and becoming someone else. And I admit that -this- part was fairly intriguing and interesting… once the book gets to it, that is, not before the 50% mark or so.

However, it just didn’t grab me; the plot was sort of meandering, with the effect that I was very much aware that there was a plot, and of what it was, yet it felt like there was no plot. I don’t even know how that could happen. I also didn’t connect with the characters, except one (and, here too, we don’t see this character until mid-book). Even writing a review about it kind of bores me.

The writing itself was fine, although the parts in ‘Feed-speak’ were headache-inducing, to be honest.

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review 2018-04-05 17:13
Invictus
Invictus - Ryan Graudin

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

What I liked:

- The beginning. Of course, you can tell immediately where this is going, and that there’s going to be another proposal to offset the bad news, and you can guess what that proposal will be, but it’s OK because it’s why you’re reading the book. Well, why I was reading it, at any rate.

- Some aspects of the world building, with the idea of trained people going back in time to record events, and having to follow specific rules to avoid creating paradoxes. It makes a lot of sense, since the ‘grandfather paradox’ is definitely not the only risk in such a setting: it’s obvious that you wouldn’t want to kill your own grandfather if you hope to be born someday… but it’s much less obvious that even ‘small’ actions like gambling in a casino can have consequences, for instance by preventing the ‘normal’ winner from winning, in turn preventing them from doing things that should normally have happened, and so on. The most noticeable actions aren’t the only ones that can change the world.

- The crew’s dynamics. I have a soft spot for heist stories carried by a crew (ship, spaceship, band of misfits, whatever), and when the latter works well together, it’s even better. In itself¸ this part wasn’t the most exceptional ever, but I could feel the ties uniting them, and that was good.

- Diversity. Priya is obviously of Indian origin, Gram is dark-skinned, and Far also has inherited a darker complexion from his father. It’s not mentioned more than once or twice, but it’s good to see.

- The book was entertaining, I wanted to know how the story would go (good thing I’ve been on sick leave and with time on my hands to rush through it, huh), and in general the action and tension scenes were gripping.

What I didn’t like so much:

- The romance. I’m not particularly keen on romance in general, for starters— in my experience 90% of such subplots, when they happen in stories whose main genre is not romance, are there because it’s what people (or the market, or publishing houses, I’m never really sure) expect. As a result, the romance feels forced, and that’s the feeling I got here. I didn’t particularly care about Imogen having a crush, all the more since it led to some screen time being used up for conversations about boys and should-I-oh-no-I-don’t-dare. As for the romance between Far and Priya, it was announced very suddenly, its beginnings happened off-scene, and I never felt any real chemistry between these two. In a story revolving around an all-for-one type of crew, friendship all the way would’ve worked better for me.

- The lull mid-book, the part where they go to Las Vegas. Partly because of the romance-related conversations, partly because I wanted to shout ‘Seriously, characters, is partying and getting drunk the best you can do right now?’

- Some other aspects of the world building. Yes, I know I partially liked it. However, some elements were there for… no reason? Example: How can Priya be 17-18 and already a full-fledged medic, with mechanic skills to boot? When did she got time to learn all that? Or why do they eat synthetic food, why is ice cream so expensive? I felt the latter points were here to give a ‘science-fictiony’ sheen, but without explanations about why the world came to be like that, I can never fully buy it. (I’m not asking for a treaty about 24th century economics, but at least a couple of lines about the whys would be nice.)

- Part of the plot when it comes to Eliot’s involvement. First, it’d have been good to see a couple of successful heists before she appeared, so that the disruption she created would be even stronger. Second, the true reason for her presence is somewhat complicated, and may have worked better with a little more development. An example of what I felt rushed with that is how easily an antagonist character convinces other antagonist characters to work with him, towards the end, in order to stop her; it happened very quickly, wasn’t very convincing, and anyway, why didn’t he enlist his own after that, to add a strike force he could fully control?
(Side note: I found the names they used very confusing. I could deal with the endings, like FLT6, but the whole strings of numbers in the middle… I kept trying to imagine the conversation with Eliot speaking these numbers, and I’m surprised she didn’t make a mistake every two sentences when using those.)

- The characters, outside of their role as a group. As a crew, I thought they functioned together well; but as individuals, they felt flatter. They have their quirks, sure (Imogen dying her hair, Gram and his games), but quirks don’t make a full-fledged character. I didn’t really like Far, he had too much of the ‘strong ego/insufferable’ vibe without enough of the ‘dashing captain/charisma’ vibe, so to speak. Also, I would’ve liked to see more of Gram, for some reason I liked him best.

Conclusion: Cool concepts, with good action scenes. The book was an entertaining read, although it failed in other parts.

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