#Review: Lexicon by @MaxBarry – Word salad punctures impenetrable walls? (3.5 stars)

Lexicon
Lexicon by Max Barry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My emotions while reading this book ran the gamut from engrossed to utterly confused to painfully bored and back to engrossed. I spent most of the time somewhere solidly in the middle, and thus rate Lexicon somewhere between 3 and 4 stars.

I’ve not read anything by Max Barry before reading Lexicon, but I was honestly impressed by the readability of this book. The subject matter would not have been something I’d have been interested in by itself, but this writing held my attention (for the most part). I am interested in other books he’s written, hoping that maybe the subject matter is a bit more in line with my interests.

The basic story here is about a group of lyrical gangstas in our midst. They train together and work together, seek out new recruits to further their lineage, and educate them to the best of their ability. Language, they believe, has the ability to pierce the filters and walls of the human psyche. Every person alive is vulnerable to a specific subset of these “magical” words, depending on their personality “segment”. This segment must be identified by the poet, or the linguist expert who’ll be doing the compromising, and the education to do so is acquired at a special & secret Academy. Invitation-only.

In Lexicon, the focus shifts so much from character to character that you’ll find yourself a wee bit whiplash-ed in deciding who you’re rooting for. Emily? Wil? Eliot? Harry? You wouldn’t believe it, but Bronte, too. Never Yates, though.

My biggest complaint about the book is the timeline. The two timelines in the book jump around quite a lot, with the endpoint being their convergence. I found myself believing that the converging had already taken place a couple of times only to realize that we were still in the past. It was at that point the “boredom” piece of this puzzle clicked in. If I was misunderstanding the time, then I was completely misunderstanding the events that just took place. I checked out for a bit, mentally.

But I returned. I completed.

The book ends with a bit of an eye roller about the depth of love and the vulnerability it brings. By this point I was D-U-N with the book and a bit relieved it was over. I wished that the love story had been a bit more developed, or the characters a bit more human. A couple of tangents about a brain tumor and delegates threw me for a loop, but overall this book is an engaging read written very well and worth the investment of time.

Maybe keep a piece of paper handy to keep the timeline written in visual form so that it’s easier to follow.



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#Review: The Here and Now 3/5 stars

The Here and Now
The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve not read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and I’ve never seen the movies, so I’m very new to Ann Brashares.

To sum it up, I enjoyed this book up until about the 90% part. There were some things missing, a bunch of glaring plotholes, and unbelievable coinky-dinks, but whatever, it’s nice to have easy fiction now and again.

Basically, Prenna, a 14-year old girl from the future comes back in time with a group of contemporaries to escape an apocalyptic scenario unfolding in her native time. Mosquitoes bring and distribute the most devastating blood plague of all time, taking with it her two brothers – one a baby. She arrives in our present, attends high school, and aims to live as benign a life as possible. Three years pass and she’s now 17 and our story begins.

The rules of the Community are very specifically set so that the future group interacts with the present group as little as possible, NEVER falls in love with “time natives”, and has very little effect on the progress of time. How does that make sense, though? Shouldn’t the goal of this flavor of time travel be to change the future by having a gigantic effect on the past?

The pieces fall into place way too easily in this story. The hero is the hottest, super smart, a lab tech at a pivotal location in the book.. Fake phone calls are believed without suspicion.. The leaders of the Community pose NO resistance to Prenna’s Declaration of Independence… It’s all just way too utopian from the point of view of the teenage girl.

The real sour spot for me in this whole story was the ending. After building up the whole story in one singular direction, there’s a moment of epiphany and a sudden, unlabored unraveling that abruptly cuts the whole thing off. I was really put off by how quickly things changed then ended, and by reading other reviews, it appears I am not alone. I wish it had ended differently.

Overall, though, the first 90% of the book was really pleasant and built up pleasantly. I can’t recommend it because the ending kinda blows, but if you can hunker down and prepare for it from the get-go, you’ll be solid.

**This book was provided by the publisher free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
via NetGalley




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#Review: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

The Uninvited
The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really don’t know what happened here, but damn. This book was just bad. I didn’t enjoy 95% of it, and if it wasn’t for a NetGalley review, I would have put it down close to the beginning. The cover picture and the blurb set me up for a book I thought I’d really like. I did not.

A frightening phenomenon is occurring. Kids are killing grown-ups. The reason or the rhyme is not established until the very end in hurried fashion as if it were an afterthought. I’ve seen it called dystopian, but meh. It really isn’t. Some bizarre role-switching of the main child in the book, the story told through the eyes of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, and a lot of boring in between.

I really disliked this book. It didn’t flow well at all.

NetGalley & the publisher provided the book and I provided my honest opinion.



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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August @netgalley #bookreview

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

God, I don’t even know where to begin with this book.

There will be spoilers in a bit, so heads-up or a warning to stop reading now.

Let’s start with some facts:
* NetGalley gave me the opportunity to read this book – thanks for that!
* I’m a rabid fan of time travel/life-after-life type books.
* This cover is pretty rad.

Strictly speaking, this book is not about time travel. It is a play on The Eternal Return, wherein the protagonist repeats the same life over and over again. He’s not alone, though, and there is an entire race of these repeaters called kalachakra or ouroborans. They meet up and take care of their own, which seems fair, and they get multiple lives with which to explore, better themselves, etc.

All is well and all is good (though tragically boring) until Harry, laying on one of his deathbeds, is visited by a young child who whispers to him of the hastening of the end of the world. It must be stopped, and somehow Harry is the one to do it. (He is The Special?)

Thus begins the journey of Harry to find why the world is ending, who’s behind it, and the best way to go about infiltrating the process.

Holy crap this book was a violent exercise in stamina, endurance, and honoring commitment even when I . DID . NOT . WANT . TO . CONTINUE. So many times, so many times, so many times I promised myself I’d quit in 2 chapters. “If it stays this boring,” I said, “this book will be a DNF.” But then it got a little better and I got a little bit of a second (or third or fourth or two-hundredth) wind.

I’d say a good 50% of this book was boring because it was wordy, filler, meandering, pointless, without focus. I fully believe the author had an outline, and each point of the outline was amazing and interesting, but you can’t write a book of just an outline, and so she filled it in. The filler, however, just didn’t do the story justice.

SPOILERS AHEAD — SPOILERS AHEAD

The book picks up pace around 80% and sustains to the end where, unfortunately, the ending left me with some ??? above my head.

– What if Vincent just made it up?
– What the hell compelled him to give such identifying details?
– What is the magic that makes aborted kalachakra never exist again, but when the dude ended the world prematurely in nuclear war, it just reset everyone?

The political details in the middle were rough and extra-boring.
The environmental warning was cute.

I liked approximately 25% of this book. The story is cool, but the writing was too tedious, the plotline too meandering, and the register of it too high (probably a difference between British English and US English) to really recommend it.

Fun fact: Reading this out loud in a (probably really terrible) British accent was what got me through the times I wanted to throw this book into a raging inferno. So there’s that.



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Reality Villainess Tells All! #Review @bugrobertson @benflajnik

I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain
I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain by Courtney Robertson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Courtney Robinson Robertson was the girl we loved to hate. I’m a big fan of the Bachelor/ette franchise as a general rule, but Courtney really brought the kind of pain to the show that hooked us viewers in. I started off this review saying she was demonized, but I think everybody’s aware, especially herself, that she was fully aware of her own behaviors and how they affected people.

Anyway, this is not a review on Courtney’s personality flaws, but the book she wrote highlighting her life thus far which focuses heavily on her time with Ben Flajnik, The Bachelor’s 16th bachelor.

A bit of backstory starts us off, name­dropping as we go (Jesse Metcalfe, Adrian Grenier, Gerard Butler), where Courtney does her very best to set herself up as an awkward underdog whose ugly duckling difficulties in her teens and early 20s are intended to endear us to her. She stumbled into modeling completely unaware of her beauty as if she felt undeserving of the attention.

I suppose that angle may work for some readers, but … hee. Not me.

In reality, and per the Bachelor show we all participated in as voyeurs, Courtney is exactly as she presented. I wish, as a reader and a viewer, she’d just embrace her inner bitch because it is what it is and it was what it was. She was catty and sassy as often as possible on the show, and attempting to play it off as “stand-up comedian gone bad” is just kind of pathetic.

None of what’s written above, however, gives a pass to how Ben Flajnik treated Courtney post-Bachelor unreality. Courtney is definitely giving her side of the story in this painstakingly detailed retelling of events, and there would likely be a difference of opinion were we to compare notes with Ben, but he came off light on integrity on the show itself long before this book was neuron firing. That his behavior as Courtney describes it matches exactly what I would have expected is no coincidence nor is it a shock.

Long story short: I believe the charge that Ben Flajnik went on both Bachelorette AND Bachelor in order to hawk his winery & wine to be true.

As to why Courtney wrote this book? I think she’s a big-time narcissist and has long-harbored resentment that she came off as terribly as she did on the show (even though it was by her own hand — thus is the insanity of narcissism) and can’t stand how Ben has talked poorly about her in the press for years. She wants to paint herself in the halo-glow of innocence via this book and point the wicked wand at Ben. It won’t work, in my opinion, but she can have fun trying.

The secondary purpose for her writing this book is that I believe she desperately wants to be The Bachelorette, and in my opinion, they should let her do it. The ratings will be sky-effin-high (I’ll for sure watch!!!). Make it a celebrity version since the bar has been raised so high for her, and holy crap. Show success.

One thing I really have to admit to – while reading the book I followed along as closely as I could with YouTube clips and media stories / pictures to go along with what she was reporting. It was a really lot of fun. To know the insider knowledge of how terribly bad her relationship was with Ben by the time they got to the Wet Republic pool party was awesome to then run over and look at the pictures and try to see the misery in their faces.

Overall this book was a super-fast read and highly entertaining. It’s light and fun – not deep or difficult or cerebral at all. Be ready to feel like you’re watching a 10-car pileup in wicked slow motion while eating popcorn and drinking cheap wine (not Ben’s).

Disclaimer: I was provided a digital copy of this book in order to read and provide an honest review.



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“The Transhumanist Wager” by @zoltan_istvan Provocative Storytelling

transhuman

 

The Transhumanist Wager
By Zoltan Istvan
300pps
Philosophy > Science Fiction

Copy furnished by the author
“The Transhumanist Wager” tells the provocative story of Jethro Knights and his participation in the Transhumanist Movement. The movement is based on a shared philosophy based on human enlightenment through extending one’s life through the use of science and technology (my layman interpretation). The Transhumanist Wager explores the philosophy more eloquently than I have given. Obviously.

Transhumanist Wager follows the rise of Jethro Knights from being a student from a prestigious university to circumnavigating the globe to becoming “leader” of the tranhumanist movement. However, the movement goes against God’s will and Reverend Belinas is not amused. At all. Man is meant to live and die all the while being in the service of God and not live forever.

“A transhumanist must safeguard one’s own existence above all else.” Jethro Knights is an extremist. Reverend Belinas is an extremist. Two opposing views to help drive the message of Transhumanism and to discuss the flaws of organized religion and how it limits human insight and growth. No shades of gray are presented in the novel. It’s because of these extreme views that it’s difficult to like Jethro Knights or to fully stand behind transhumanism. That’s not to say this was a terrible book. I enjoyed the writing itself. In fact I’m glad I read it because it allowed me to develop my own thoughts on the movement and religion and their roles in contemporary society. As I said early on; provocative.

 

“Red Rising” by @Pierce_Brown A fantastic genre bending “Hunger Games” meets “Lord of the Flies”

 

15839976
Red Rising (The Red Rising Trilogy #1)
By Pierce Brown
401 pp
Sci-Fi > YA> Dystopian

The setting is Mars. The setting is bleak with the Reds mining for Helium-3, a necessary element for terraforming Mars as well as other planets. The Reds work hard knowing that what they do is for the greater good of mankind; that they’re sacrifices are not in vain and Mars will be habitable. That is until, 16 year old Darrow learns the truth. It’s with this discovery and what he does that brings the reader into a fantastic world as he attempts to rise up into the ranks and expose the truth for what it is.

 

I don’t read much YA-Sci Fi-Dystopian. Really, I don’t. I read “Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Ready Player One” (those last two may be a stretch to classify as Dystopian) and that was it. That said, reading “Red Rising” could be a mash-up of “Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Lord of the Flies,” with a smidgen of “Harry Potter…” and Roman structre and mythos.

 

As mentioned, Darrow rises into the ranks. He becomes a Gold. All is not easy as there are trials which he must pass once he is a Gold. Of the many trials, one needs to be victorious with his House in a “survival of the fittest” of sorts versus other Houses. Of course, the typical cliche with the powers that be intervening, this competition is no different with its obstacles that Darrow must face.

The writing itself had some minor issues as far as I was concerned. There were some “show don’t tell” moments concerning Darrow and how he’s “able to think outside the box” as well as towards the ending with his House vs some other Houses. In other words, rather than letting the reader learn of the traits of Darrow the reader is told, “It’s because of this reason that he’s that way.” The finale with the other Houses felt rushed; less setting up the scene and more of “this happened afterdwe caused that.” In the grand scheme of things I suppose that’s ok, but another hundred pages or so would have been more fulfilling.

Overall, I’m glad I chanced upon this book. For the avid reader of the genre, this will be a quick read. For the casual reader, I’d say the same. Mr. Brown hooks you into the world and doesn’t let go. Let’s hope the second installment does the same.

 

“Above” by Isla Morely. It’s so good it got two reviews on Twisted Sense! @GalleryBooks @NetGalley #bookreview

abovecover37391-small
“Above”
By Isla Morley
384 pp
Fiction > Thriller

ARC via NetGalley

“Above” by Isla Morley tells the story of 16 year old Blythe Hallowell, abducted by a survivalist for 17 years. Hidden in a missile silo in Eudora, Kansas, 16 year old Blythe is left isolated from the outside world with her abductor, Dobbs Hordin. It’s difficult for Blythe to believe Dobbs’ rhetoric concerning the upcoming end of days as well as what may or may not have happened during the 17 years of captivity but it’s also just as difficult after those 17 years in learning what’s happened while she was gone.

Ms. Morley’s novel, “Above”, tells the fantastic story of a resilient woman held against her will in a claustrophobic setting. At least for the first 17 years of captivity. And after those 17 years? It’s just as fantastic. Morley’s excellent prose allows you to be transported from the safety of your favorite reading spot to Blythe’s enclosed setting yearning for daylight and that next breath. What happens those first 17 years is for the reader to discover.

After the first 17 years begins another journey of discovery, in more ways than one. What happened after those first 17 years had me wondering what happened as I devoured each page. I found myself texting a friend that had recently completed the ARC copy of “Above” a lot of “what if” scenarios as I was reading. “If aliens…”; “If mutants…”; and then there was the reveal of what happened those 17 years Blythe was gone.

I enjoyed reading “Above” a lot. The world she transported me to was one I loved to read from the outside looking in. Put into Blythe’s situation? Fuck that noise. I wouldn’t be able to cope. And that’s what makes a terrific story teller; to transport you into another world where you succumb to the writer and let him/her take control of all your senses and emotions.

“From The Indie Side” edited be David Gatewood: A Celebration of Independent Authors #bookreview

81HDd0R5TCL._SL1500_From Indie Side
Edited by David Gatewood
310 pp
Fiction > Genre Fiction
ARC Review

A decent collection of short stories, crossing various genres from independent authors. Of the 12 authors, three I recognize, and of those three, two I have read. The nice thing about short stories is just that, they’re short and they can give you sampling of what each writer has to offer with a full novel. That said, I look forward to exploring the words and worlds that some of these authors have created.

I’ll be honest, there were some stories that I rolled my eyes. It may have been due to writing, the story, or the big reveal and/or ending. There were some genres I didn’t care for, but that’s not to discredit the story or the prose, because they are all excellent in their own right.But the ones that moved me? I wanted more.

“The Winter Lands” by Jason Gurley tells the emotional tale of a man with a fantastic story to tell and, yet, cannot put those words down eloquently.

“Cipher” by Sara Foster is an incredible story of a woman yearning to be reunited with her family after being separated by mysterious bomb set off close to home. By the end of the story I was left speechless with the exception of one word, “Damn.” By far my favorite of the anthology.

“The War Veteran” by Susan May is an fantastic look into the psyche of a war veteran suffering from depression, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD.

“Gyre-Witchery” by Kev Heritage weaves sci-fi and fantasy primitive tale seamlessly.

“Redoubt” by Michel Bunker and “Mouth Breathers” by Hugh Howey ; The tales end just as soon as it starts and leaves you with an unquenchable thirst for more. The end of days and a forbidden love story. Terrific build up for the universes that they’ve created.

“Made of Stars” by Anne Frasier features terrific prose. As a fan of story telling, I enjoyed it despite that I couldn’t care less about the genre of lovelorn vampires. It’s a cliché as far as I’m concerned, but her writing was solid and left me wanting to read more of her work.

“The Man Who Remembered Today” by Peter Cawdron tells the tale of a man, ethnically profiled, who has no recollection of the past but of what’s to come. It’s with that clairvoyance that chaos ensues with the foresight of a terrorist attack.

For the price of the anthology, you can’t go wrong with the stories. It’s definitely worth it to explore and discover what the up and coming indie authors have to offer.

 

 

#Review: Above by Isla Morley – abduction thriller and more!

abovecover37391-small
Above by Isla Morley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Lazy summer days, picnics in the park, squabbling among siblings, a racing heart caused by a promising young man… these are the types of things that are supposed to punctuate the young life of Blythe Hallowell. A 16-year old girl in Eudora, Kansas has her whole life ahead of her. That is until Dobbs Hordin, school librarian, tricks her into getting into his car. This decision will change the course of her life irreparably.

Dobbs squirrels Blythe away deep, deep into the earth contained securely in an abandoned missile silo. Outfitted with living quarters, rations, and sturdy locks on all the doors, Blythe finds herself in a living hell she desperately wishes to escape. Dobbs, coming and going as he pleases, talks incessantly about an apocalypse happening above, a world unrecognizable. Blythe, acutely aware of Dobbs’ tenuous grip on reality, finds she can do nothing but play along until freedom presents itself. In the meantime, she gives birth twice, plays Mom for a short time to a child Dobbs abducts from “Above”, and plays along to Dobbs’ fantasy as his wife. She bides her time expertly, never forgetting her family and her life above, but making the best with the worst situation.

Approximately halfway through the book, the story’s momentum is turned on its ear. We are thrust from abduction thriller to post-apocalyptic dystopian. The world as Blythe left it no longer exists. She must forge through this brand new world, though not alone, and figure out how she will survive.

Above had me from start to finish. I devoured this novel. The abduction and her life following was harrowing, suffocating, and heartbreaking. Moments of pure joy were marred by an undercurrent of constant terror, and I found myself needing to remember to breathe. The post-apocalyptic dystopian part caught me absolutely by surprise, and I found myself see-sawing between despair, hope, gratefulness, and trepidation for the future.

One really strange bit that kept pulling me out of the story: The way Ms. Morley writes the “before” portion of the book makes me feel like Blythe was a 16-year old in the 50s or 60s. I couldn’t shake it, and then when she wrote about someone in her teenage years talking on a cell phone, it shattered my illusion for a bit. There’s a bit of old-fashioned infused in the text.

Overall, I really enjoyed the pace of this book. I love the incredible spectrum of emotions I felt while reading. Some of the scenes after Blythe resurfaces were clunky, and one in particular I think was completely unnecessary (Blade taking them to the place with the bones), but I enjoyed this story nonetheless.

Thanks go to NetGalley & Gallery/Simon&Schuster for the ARC e-galley.



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