Category Archives: fiction

Review: California by Edan Lepucki

California
California by Edan Lepucki
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wow, where do I begin?

I was excited to see the blurb for this book in Netgalley’s list of offerings. Dystopia is just about my favorite genre, especially post-apocalyptic dystopia. I’m a fan of the quiet (or not-so-quiet) desperation associated with end-of-the-world scenarios where humanity fights like hell to survive.

California didn’t have that, though.

Let me back up a second… The premise of the story is about a married couple, Cal(vin) and Frida who are living in “The Afterlife” which is just an area they’ve coined with a cute nickname. The world as we know it went away with a whimper (not a bang) and the life we’ve grown accustomed to just faded away. Now this couple lives alone with a couple neighbors near-ish by and a traveling dude who brings them goods now and again.

By the way, I don’t know of any Vicodin pills that come at a 750mg dose. Pretty sure that’d put someone down for a very long time. Details. Anyway.

Frida’s brother died a long time ago by blowing himself up to prove a point, and her parents are MIA. Cal’s family was in the midwest and died when it got crazy-cold where they lived. These two are all alone. They have nearby neighbors, though they aren’t around long in the book.

Cal and Frida go on a bit of a search for life beyond The Afterlife. They find it.

I half-read it and half-listened via audiobook. If I were to have rated this book by audiobook performance alone, the whole she-bang would have received 0.5 stars. That narration was BAD. It made the book, which is hard to give a crap about to begin with, loathsome. I wanted to quit 650 times per chapter while listening along with the audiobook compared to wanting to quit reading a mere 225 times per chapter while letting my eyes do the work.

Now for spoilers….

Her brother isn’t dead. He’s the sort-of Governor of Woodbury (TWD fans will recognize). Seemingly magnanimous and the hero to all, but actually kind of slimy and not someone we should trust.

The pregnancy was deeply annoying throughout the whole book and, aside from being the catalyst for their leaving The Land, was nothing but a complete waste of time.

The whole story about Micah (brother) getting rid of all the kids of The Land is incomprehensible to me. The parents just let the kids be taken away to another city? This doesn’t make sense. It defies parental logic, which, even in the post-apocalypse probably follows similar trajectories.

The “fear of the color red” and its manifestation when there was blood, or a shirt’s color, etc, and that fear being based on the fact that Pirates have red belts/sashes was silly. PTSD doesn’t quite work that way.

Anika’s reaction (and extended to the whole town’s instant change of heart) to Frida’s declaration of pregnancy was stupid. To act so broken and betrayed really pushed the limits of “reasonable human behavior”.

The prose of the story was very difficult to follow. The writing phased in and out of current narration and flashbacks, and there was NOTHING to delineate between the two. I found myself unsure when a transition took place, and I’d have to re-read to try to discern what the author meant to be happening. IF (and only if) the author intended to demonstrate how life was a meandering switching back and forth between past and present until the duo arrived to The Land … she was successful. Any other purpose for that kind of writing is just to confuse the reader.

So many things about this book were bizarre, unnecessary, unexplored… It’s filled with loose ends that very much felt like time-wasters. Words to fill a quota less than words to tell a coherent story.

Finally, the ending blew my mind. Suddenly, following the announcement of the pregnancy to the people of The Land, Cal and Frida are exiled yet sent to live in another Community called the Pines where everything is shiny and new and there are comforts of the world before everything went to hell, and they’re all available to everyone. What? And they were there much longer than they were at The Land, too.

I don’t know. I walked away from this book completely disappointed. I don’t care that Colbert said it rocked; it made no sense and left me with questions that will never get answered.

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#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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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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