Author Archives: NikiTee

#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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#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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Review: The Caretaker: A Short Story

The Caretaker: A Short Story
The Caretaker: A Short Story by Jason Gurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seriously, Jason Gurley has got market share on the talent to terrify me as a reader. I’m sure I’m not alone – speak up if you agree! The Caretaker is a simple story sharing a glimpse into the life of Alice Quayle, a “caretaker” of sorts for an in-orbit spacecraft. She’s the one who goes up in between missions and takes care of the day-to-day needs of the ship. Light bulbs, oiling, etc. It just so happens that down on Earth, disarmament talks are currently taking place.

Disarmament talks aren’t always successful.

Alice watches as the world, quite literally, goes up in smoke. Now she and her only companion, a high-level AI named Eve, deal with the fallout.

Seriously terrifying, Jason. I need to remind myself to breathe.

The only reason this isn’t a 4-star review is because I’m confused what the goal of Alice was at the end. I can guess, but I’m NOT entirely sure I’m right, and I felt a bit disappointed that I wasn’t more clear, especially following excessive clarity for the entire story preceding.

Disclaimer: I received The Caretaker free for being a recipient of Jason’s newsletter.

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The Dark Age by Jason Gurley – @jgurley #review #shortstory

The Dark Age: a short story
The Dark Age: a short story by Jason Gurley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am simultaneously crushed and uplifted by this short story. Jason Gurley is talented and his ability to tell a story, be it long or short, is reiterated by The Dark Age.

This story had so many elements: love, panic, awe, devotion, utterly bleak sadness, and even a little bit of hope. I felt crushed by panic and desperation in between moments of tenderness and sweet appreciation. Jason’s writing is so complete and layered so richly that all of these emotions co-existing makes perfect sense.

I admit I emailed Jason after I was done reading this and asked him if he thought he’d ever consider developing this story further, because I’m selfish and I want more. I’m not sure I could honestly handle the raw emotion his storytelling brings forth, but that’s a testimony to how good he is.

I received a copy of this short story via Jason Gurley’s newsletter.

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#BookReview: So Say the Waiters (Book 1) by @JustinSirois

So Say the Waiters book 1
So Say the Waiters book 1 by Justin Sirois
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d rate this somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars.

Imagine a world where a phone app exists that allows you to create and plan your own kidnapping. You give the parameters for the kidnapping: the duration, the experiences you want to have, the safe word for a safe escape…

Henry is a daily grind kind of guy working in a mind-numbing yet steady job in programming where he’s struggling to keep his head above water. His work is sloppy, he calls in late or sick often, skips out early, and he’s paying for it in work performance. His marriage is all but over, and his wife is nearly completely moved out. He receives a phone call and a plane ticket one Friday afternoon to send him across the country from home (Baltimore) to Los Angeles to visit an old friend with a wild and lucrative proposition.

Dani is a girl who’s barely scraping by. She’s a bartender in a band and she’s covered in tattoos. She’s one of kidnApp’s best customers, and an early adopter. She can’t make rent, and she can’t make the guy she likes want her, too, but she’s a whiz with getting swept away by a Taker.

The story winds closely around these two characters, and really does a good job building up the beginnings of a great partnership. This is only Book 1, so the foundation is laid rather well. I really feel the doldrums of Henry’s life, and I’m eager for him to take the opportunity to turn everything on its ear and change directions 180-degrees. But he won’t, because he’s Henry, and he will do this methodically and planting each foot firmly down before taking the next step. That’s where Dani comes in. These two may very well create a powerhouse dynamic duo that will accelerate kidnApp to the upper atmosphere where it belongs.

Criticisms: This book was littered with misspellings and grammatical errors. I am unsure if it was edited. It seems like it was, because it is well-written, but some of the errors are blatant and left me scratching my head. I tried to submit the errors via the Kindle interface, but I’m not sure those are reported exactly as I had it conjured in my mind. Regardless, with a bit of effort in setting aside these oversights, the book is fun and worth a shot to learn if the kidnApp world is right for you.

Book 1 is available for free on Amazon (link), Barnes & Noble for Nook (link), iBooks, or Smashwords (link).

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#Dust Day! @hughhowey releases Volume 3 in the #Wool Saga! 8/17/2013

Dust Saga Volume 3
Exciting news for all you Woolverse fans out there — Today is the day Hugh Howey (http://www.hughhowey.com) releases his third and final volume (*panic*) of the Wool saga.

Here’s the brief description, for those who are not yet familiar with the Wool stories:

In a ruined and toxic landscape, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.

If you are absolutely new to Wool, you’ll need to start at the beginning and move your way through. Trust me, it’s worth it. I’ve turned at least 5-6 friends into Woolites, and I’d like to turn you, too.

Start with Wool, keep moving through with Shift, finish up with Dust. Wonder how you’ve survived the past [however many years] without Hugh Howey as a part of your reading list.

Amazon links:

Wool – Omnibus Edition (1-5) (Volume 1)
Shift – Omnibus Edition (1-3) (Volume 2)
Dust (Volume 3)

Barnes & Noble links:

Wool Omnibus (1-5)
Shift Omnibus (1-3)
Dust

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