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review 2020-05-26 09:17
Monstrous Devices
Monstrous Devices - Damien Love

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

One of my favourite themes being in here, I still enjoyed the story for that aspect, but I admit that otherwise, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected to.

While it definitely deals with cool concepts (the aloof, badass grandpa; the robots; the mysterious men wanting Alex’s just as mysterious robot; their magic, both awesome and gruesome), plot-wise the story was also completely over the place. In a way, it reminded me precisely of the way I envisioned stories myself when I was a young reader: “Something mysterious! A bully! School woes! Something else happens! Grandpa arrives! Mum is not happy with him! Something else happens! Let’s run away!” And so on. So perhaps this would appeal to a 10-year old audience? I’m not entirely sure either. (To be clear, it’s not the fast pace itself I found problematic—such a pace can be very powerful indeed؅—but the disjointed way in which it was handled.)

“Monstrous Devices” also contains a very specific pet peeve of mine, a.k.a “I’m not telling you anything because for some reason, I think it will protect you, yet I completely fail to see that it actually endangers you more.” I don’t know why this trope is so prevalent. Just talk to your kids, people, they’re not stupid, and if you think it’s OK to take them traipsing all over Europe while pursued by murderous robots, then why not equip them to deal with it better, hm? (And as a result, the reader is none the wiser either. Having a few things left open at the end, for the next volume or two, is cool; having too many is not.)

Conclusion: 2.5/5. Cool themes, and this will probably work for part of the intended audience at least, but not so much for me.

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review 2019-05-29 17:19
The Farm
The Farm - Joanne Ramos

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

At some point, this book was touted as a dystopia and somewhat compared to “The Handmaid’s Tale”, at least in certain blurbs I saw back then, but lest readers approach it thinking they’re going into a dystopian read: it is not (and expecting it to be would probably do it disservice). Or, at least, it’s not more dystopian than the world we currently live in, where you can get everything anyway if you’re wealthy enough (including surrogate mothers).

The story follows four characters: Jane, a naïve Filipina-American girl who gets roped into becoming a “Host” at Golden Oaks (the “Farm” from the title); Ate, her shrewd cousin who is intent on making money in order to take care of her family back in the Philippines; Mae, the Golden Oaks’ director, banking on this new lucrative business to secure her end-of-year bonus; and Reagan, a “Premium Host” who’s been wooed by Mae to carry the child of a billionaire woman from China.

One thing is to be said about Golden Oaks, for starters: it is incredibly believable—if such a place doesn’t already exist somewhere, surely it will exist at some point? A golden prison whose “inmates” submitted themselves voluntarily in exchange for fat money incentives and bonuses, it has a lot of advantages (healthy food, exercise, massages… all in all, quite “privileged” surroundings), but also clearly plays a part in the kind of exploitation that is already going on, when it comes to people (especially of immigrant backgrounds) who can’t be choosers when it comes to jobs.

While it’s not a clear-cut dystopia, the world of “The Farm” nevertheless deals with contemporary problems that do have a whiff of dystopia, namely class and exploitation. Mae and her people (her clients included) go about this with a complete dichotomy of recruiting the Hosts by showing Golden Oaks as a sort of luxury retreat and their role as surrogates as meaningful and contributing to the good in the world… and at the same time, the Hosts are given numbers (not to their faces), and discussed in terms of class and backgrounds. This why Reagan, for instance, is a Premium Host and chosen to carry a very special baby: she’s white, from a clearly upper-middle-class family, she majored cum laude from Duke University, and she’s pretty to boot. Clients can subscribe to different “packages”, and a Reagan will always have more worth than a Jane. At some point, Mae and her boss even discuss introducing a new level, that of impoverished white women from blue-collar families, as a sort of “Premium-at-a-discount”. In itself, it is positively disgusting, and capitalism pushed to a very visible extreme, without any shame. The whole thing is all the more disturbing that Mae’s narrative makes it appear as somewhat sensible: of course, the Hosts are well-compensated—although differently depending on whether they’re Premium or not…

This said, there were a few things that seriously bothered me here:

- The story is told in the third person and in the present tense. I’m not too keen on whole books written this way. It was tolerable, but I can only stomach that much. Probably a case of “it’s not the book, it’s me”, though.

- Jane is clearly of this brand of people who continuously make the worst decisions and choose the worst course of action at the worst moment possible (acknowledged in the novel itself, as Reagan reflects upon this). It makes for plot twists, sure, and it plays into the how the book indeed denounces the exploitation of immigrants, who don’t necessarily know all the “rules” when it comes to becoming part of their host country. Yet at the same time, it made Jane rather worthy of several eye rolls, and also sends some sort of underlying message that, well, she’s so naïve and stupid, so surely it’s her fault for getting into such situations. I’m always on the fence with such characters. I do not want to play the victim blaming game, because that’s rubbish, but it’s not so easy either to find her endearing rather than annoying.

- I’m still not sure of where the story wanted to go. There’s a looming thread of vaguely impending doom through the narrative, as if something really sinister is lurking, but that “something”, in the end, doesn’t materialise, or not the way you would expect. Whatever happens is mostly the product of short-sightedness on the part of the people involved (yes, Mae as well): because they don’t communicate properly, or because they fail to realise that continuously giving incentives to people and then taking them away at the last moment is NOT a good way of ensuring things will go smoothly. The situation unfolding in the last third or so is the result of one huge misunderstanding, and considering the degree of monitoring at Golden Oaks and Mae’s suppose shrewdness, it’s like several people just forgot their brains somewhere at some point. (Ate and her friends are not immune to that either, by the way.)

So, “The Farm” had an important message, but that message wasn’t delivered efficiently through storytelling, which muddled it.

- The characters are rather one-dimensional. Jane is the naïve immigrant who is constantly exploited. Mae is the exploiter and that’s all. Reagan is the typical woke girl struggling with her privilege but not realising that the good she wants to do may just be tainted. Lisa is kinda the resident sex addict and gossipmonger. Apart from these, I’m still not sure who exactly they are.

- The ending was… abrupt? The epilogue dragged a little, while the actual resolution, right before it, pretty much happened behind closed doors.

Conclusion: A good theme to tackle, and chilling when you realise that the way it’s presented makes it appear “sensible” while still underlining its inhuman aspects, so as a reader, you’re never left off the hook in that regard. On the other hand, I found it fell flat, and I never really connected with the characters.

P.S. Regarding the aforementioned comparison with “The Handmaid’s Tale”: publishing houses should stop doing that, because more often than not, it makes me wonder if the people writing those “comparison blurbs” have actually read the book(s) involved. Mostly the common point here is “surrogate mothers”, but “The Farm” never gets to THT’s horrifying level. Let’s be clear here: that’s not a fault of the novel, which is still interesting in its own ways. But I feel such comparisons do harm, since more than just one reader will pick the book because of this comparison, and consequently be disappointed.

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review 2018-06-04 18:00
Review: Ain't She a Peach? (Southern Eclectic #2) by Molly Harper
Ain't She a Peach - Molly Harper


An Atlanta ex-cop comes to sleepy Lake Sackett, Georgia, seeking peace and quiet—but he hasn’t bargained on falling for Frankie, the cutest coroner he’s ever met.

Frankie McCready talks to dead people. Not like a ghost whisperer or anything—but it seems rude to embalm them and not at least say hello.

Fortunately, at the McCready Family Funeral Home & Bait Shop, Frankie’s eccentricities fit right in. Lake Sackett’s embalmer and county coroner, Frankie’s goth styling and passion for nerd culture mean she’s not your typical Southern girl, but the McCreadys are hardly your typical Southern family. Led by Great-Aunt Tootie, the gambling, boozing, dog-collecting matriarch of the family, everyone looks out for one another—which usually means getting up in everyone else’s business.

Maybe that’s why Frankie is so fascinated by new sheriff Eric Linden...a recent transplant from Atlanta, he sees a homicide in every hunting accident or boat crash, which seems a little paranoid for this sleepy tourist town. What’s he so worried about? And what kind of cop can get a job with the Atlanta PD but can’t stand to look at a dead body?

Frankie has other questions that need answering first—namely, who’s behind the recent break-in attempts at the funeral home, and how can she stop them? This one really does seem like a job for the sheriff—and as Frankie and Eric do their best Scooby-Doo impressions to catch their man, they get closer to spilling some secrets they thought were buried forever.



*I received a free copy from the publisher and chose to leave a voluntary review. Thank you!*


This book is part of the Southern Eclectic Series but can read as a standalone. But it helps to have read at least book one to get to know the family and town. I enjoyed book one in the series but at first was a bit overwhelmed with so many people in the family , plus the small town folks, but that was not the case for this book anymore since I knew most of them by now. I really like that these books are not just about the main couple in this case Frankie and Eric but just as much the family and town dynamic. Frankie and Eric are fun and easy to follow as they struggle to not be attracted to each other. Frankie more so than Eric. Both characters were enjoyable for the most part. There were a few times Frankie was a bit annoying and a bit much but that was just her character. The same when it came to her parents they were a bit too overprotective when it came to her and went a bit too far at times, but that was also at the same time funny to read. The romance was fairly light but so much fun to read the sweet and tender moments between them. Overall I really enjoyed this book and I kind of hoping we getting a book for Duffy next, I think he also deserves his HEA. I rate it 4 ★







Buy Links



Will be available June 12th 2018


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Source: snoopydoosbookreviews.com/index.php/2018/06/04/review-aint-she-a-peach-southern-eclectic-2-by-molly-harper
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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 2018-04-26 19:59
Planetfall - Emma Newman

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

Science fiction that is more of the social kind than hard, as in, while it was easy to imagine how the colony ran, the story focuses on the main character and her relationships with other people, rather than on a lot of technology. In a way, I liked this aspect, but on the other hand, with Ren being pretty much a recluse, her interactions weren’t always so developed; in the end, I’m not exactly sure what to think of it.

The storuy revolves around Ren, and in a certain measure Mack and Sung-Soo. More than 20 years ago, Ren and Mack embarked on an expedition throughout the stars to find another planet, guided by Lee Suh-Mi, who determined that planet’s location after waking up from a coma. After landfall, they found a strange structure they quickly nicknamed God’s city, into which Suh-Mi walked in, never to come out. Since that time, every year sees a ritual, almost religious ceremony take place, which will last until the day Suh comes out again. Only it quickly becomes apparent that this is all based on lies crafted by Mack and upheld by Ren, for fear that without it, the community’s union and focus will collapse, and the colony will be destroyed.

I spent most of my reading torn when it came to Ren as a character and narrator. It’s obvious that while she’s competent in her job, she’s also broken in quite a few ways (her reclusiveness, the reason why she never lets anyone into her home, the mental disorder she’s been developing due to all the stress and lies piling up), and this made her touching; you can tell from the early chapters on that she’d endured trauma and has been coping and suffering all by herself, ashamed of her choices, then refusing to look at them, then not even realising anymore that she had a problem (one that is all the more important that all the things she hoards are materials that can’t get recycled to fuel the colony). Yet at the same time, it was difficult to relate to her and to really care about her, probably she keeps people at a distance. Also, due to the latter, the other characters never really came into focus: Nick remains ‘the guy who’s in because he had money’, Carmen is ‘that annoying religion-obsessed woman’, and so on.

The foundations of the colony, too, were of a kind that made me cringe. Let’s be honest, I’m not a religious person, and basing such a whole expedition on ‘finding God’ (with the potential consequence that, if the religious aspect is destroyed, everything else is, too) seemed, I don’t know, flimsy. Deeply, I believe that what a society needs is ethics, and not religion: the latter can too quickly devolve. Which makes Mack’s lies and fears sort of understandable, if not justified, considering all everything goes to the dogs when the lies are revealed (because they will be, that’s half the plot, after all). In the end, I found myself not caring whether the colony collapsed or not.

Still, I enjoyed the world-building: the author didn’t need to explain a lot for me to picture this world, with its self-sufficient, half-living houses, built at the foot of that bizarre organic city that will kill whoever gets too deep inside. And while I kind of guessed quickly what the big secret was (it got dragged for a little too long as well), trying to imagine what happened to the people in the other pods was also enjoyable. The writing style itself was pleasant, and I never struggled with it. Besides, it looks like there’s much diversity in that colony, but it’s never presented in a heavy-handed way (‘oh, look, people of colour!’). Ren as I perceive her is likely black or close to, the founder/pathfinder is Korean, several other are probably of Indian or Pakistani origin, it’s not ye olde average colony full of white men only, and it’s also not emphasised: these people all come from different backgrounds and areas of the world, and it’s normal, and it’s normal that it’s normal because why would you ever expect anything else? In other words, the book doesn’t feel the need to justify anything about it, which is great.

The ending is somewhat controversial. I think I liked it, in general; it feels like giving up, and it leaves quite a few things unexplained when it comes to God’s city, but it was strangely fitting (with Ren having to first strip herself of everything that was dragging her down, in order to understand what they had refused or been unable to see in the beginning). However, I also think that some parts of the plot were not sufficiently explained, or dealt with too quickly, especially the part about Sung-Soo; had this been better strung into the narrative, its impact would have been different.

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