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text 2018-07-17 19:08
Reading progress update: I've read 50%. - sadder and more complex than I expected
Plum Rains: A Novel - Andromeda Romano-Lax

I picked up "Plum Rains" because the premise interested me: a near-future Japan where longevity is rising, fertility is falling and the Japanese, dependent on immigrants for many personal services, start to introduce AI-driven robots that grow and learn as they interact with their owners.

 

I'd imagined a clever SF exploration of the ethics of AI and the relationship between server and served.

 

I got all of that but I'm also getting a very human tale about the youth of a woman reaching one hundred who is now a respected Tokyo matron but started as a mixed-race aboriginal on Taiwan and about a Filipino nurse, alone in Japan, trying to work off her debt.

 

I supposed I shouldn't be surprised. Some of the best writing about AI taps into deep emotions: "Speak" by Louisa Hall and "The Unseen World" by Liz Moore are great examples.

 

The added dimension in "Plum Rains" is that the point of view is Asian rather than European.

 

This is not a fast read but it is a rewarding one.

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review 2018-07-17 18:34
’Baby Teeth’ has a lot of bite and is not so sweet BUT it’s ‘un-put-down-able’
Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

This amazingly creepy story from debut author Zoje Stage has got a lot of bite. The ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ complex takes center stage as Hanna, a seven-year old (supposedly) mute girl plays nice-nice in her father Alex’s company, but when she is the company of her mother Suzette, she just about unleashes horns on her head and a devil’s tail.


I’m exaggerating a little bit: there are no supernatural horns or tails although it’s way to easy to imagine them on this devil child that Zoje has so well-written for this novel. And somehow Hanna only manages to talk, now suddenly in French, just in her mom’s company, never so her dad can hear.


For years, Suzette has had to sacrifice her career by staying at home to homeschool Hanna, as she has been thrown out of preschools for bizarre and nasty behavior, but it’s behavior that her parents felt she would grow out of, and that once she was school-age, she could be handled better by an elementary school. Suzette also struggles with Crohn’s disease, which often keeps her bedridden and very ill, but it’s something that Hanna only has so much patience for but luckily her husband Alex has been sensitive to over the years.
Hanna persists in showing only one side to her father, who is Swedish to a fault, following Swedish holidays and traditions, which is something Hanna loves, including the special names Alex gives her, like Lilla Gumman, and she delights in little things like jumping in this lap and bedtime stories, shows of affection she reserves only for her father.
Alex and Suzette have not ignored Hanna’s lack of speech and antisocial behavior over the years though; they’ve taken her to specialists and had tests done, MRIs and other scans but there are no medical reasons for these behaviors. The answers start to become clearer especially to Suzette, as the behaviors become more pronounced; she questions herself, her parenting, whether Hanna is possessed, but she starts to realize this is just Hanna.


Reading Hanna’s side of it (as the novel goes -effectively - back and forth between what is going on for Hanna and Suzette, as if they are making an argument for their case) is just so incredibly disturbing. As she makes ‘plans’ for things she is about to do, and as she reasons ‘why she should’ do things, you’re allowed to see inside a very sad and twisted mind. As the book progresses so does her negativity towards her mother, and her need to push her mom out of the way to get closer to her father becomes greater.


The methods she does it by made me literally gasp out loud and sent my own child running (with questions for me), so that’s a good sign for me when it comes to a book.
In terms of how Suzette and Alex were able to handle Hanna: I will say that if you’re not a parent, you may have the view that it would have been easy to think ‘call the police’, or do certain other drastic things at times, but once you’re a parent, your perspective changes. You try everything else first. You want to try and help your child and do what you can, or you don’t believe they’re doing these behaviors. Your love for your child makes you run through all other avenues of help first, or in Alex’s case, stay in denial or in oblivion.


For many readers, this book may have gone too far; I know of many reviewers who passed on it because of the subject material, and it wasn’t for them. But it was totally right for me. I had been waiting for a book to be this daring for a while, and if it turns some people away, then you’ve at least elicited a visceral reaction to your work, whatever it is. In this case, it was because it was something that was going to make them feel uncomfortable or scared. I’d read that some people also got the wrong idea about the book, that it contained sexual abuse: it’s a shame people jump to conclusions before they actually have any real information.
Even if I didn’t know that the author Zoje used to work in film (as I also did) I probably could’ve guessed, as this would hold up so incredibly well as a movie; I had so many scenes in my head when I was reading this! Pure magic for the camera. Especially with the right Hanna.
The characters were so fascinating, and well-written, and I loved all the little bits about Sweden, Zoje did a fine job making these characters unique, especially for a thriller in a crowded genre. But then again, the whole book is unique, right down to the crushed lollipop on the front of the book.


And since at the center of this book is the ‘Daddy’s Little Girl/Electra’ complex, I found this fascinating. I don’t think I’ve seen a book personally written about this to this degree. It made Alex so blind to his daughter’s behavior, although it also made me question whether the ending was realistic.
The ending did kind of peter out a bit but I was satisfied with it; overall the book was such a page-turner, and kept me so enthralled, it was thoroughly ‘unputdownable’. I want more of this from Zoje!


*Warning: it might make some people question whether they want a ‘Little Girl to spoil’ after reading.

**Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for my early copy! 

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review 2018-07-17 15:54
Ever After High: Ashlynn Ella's Story by Shannon Hale

Another cute story.
This one was an introduction to Cinderella's daughter, who also happens to be the next in line to be Cinderella. I'm not sure why history has to repeat itself there, but in the story, that is Ashlynn Ella's destiny.
It didn't really tell us anything else, except she is going away to school.
Short but sweet, I look forward to the next one.

 

 

Source: www.fredasvoice.com/2018/07/ever-after-high-ashlynn-ellas-story-by.html
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review 2018-07-17 14:00
Hunting Prince Dracula
Hunting Prince Dracula - Kerri Maniscalco

“Bone white, blood red. Along this path you'll soon be dead.”

 

I really enjoyed the setting of this book and the creepy old Romanian Bran Castle, with its hidden rooms and secret passageways, dark spider filled corridors leading to hidden rooms and bloodless corpses. Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell are now attending the academy of forensic medicine, which takes place in Bran Castle. Just as they arrive a series of murders happen, all pointing to the old legends leading people to fear Vlad the Impaler has risen from the dead.

 

After the events of Stalking Jack the Ripper, Audrey Rose is still attempting to come to terms with everything they endured. I was a fan of the first book, but I believe I liked this one even more. Despite her anxieties and fears Audrey becomes a stronger character. She pushes past her insecurities and tries her hardest to focus, to solve the mystery and move on with her life. She is the only female student in the academy and has to work twice as hard to prove that she is worthy of being there.

 

Cresswell remains as charming and flirtatious as ever. His humor is ever present, breaking the tension even in the most suspenseful of scenes. There is a slew of new characters, including fellow students, odd and intimidating professors, we even meet Cresswell's sister.

 

This time around I did not figure out who the killer was as I did with Stalking Jack the Ripper. Maniscalco kept me guessing and I loved it! Her writing seems to get better and better. The next book in the series is called Escaping from Houdini and the cover art is beautiful. I can't wait to add it to its predecessors currently decorating my bookshelf!

 

 

 

-Shey

 

 

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review 2018-07-17 12:01
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith

This is a nice little book that covers the space of a day. (American) heroine and (English) hero end up sitting together on a flight from the United States to England, both ducking across the pond for family events.

 

Heroine Hadley’s family was torn to pieces when her father fell in love with an Englishwoman and abandoned them, and now she’s expected to attend the London wedding. This story is as much about family as romance.

 

As for the romance, I think the author managed the culture clash aspects well, and didn’t push things too far over such a short timeframe.

 

A sweet little book overall, though I’m not sure the father deserved to be so easily forgiven!

Source: nataliaheaney.wordpress.com/2018/06/22/the-statistical-probability-of-love-at-first-sight-by-jennifer-e-smith
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