Book Review – The Book of Lost Things

Book: The Book of Lost Things – Author: John Connelly

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy, Coming-Of-Age, Allegory

Description from Goodreads:

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, ‘The Book of Lost Things’.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of fairy tales and lore, plus a gigantic bibliophile, so this book sounded right up my alley. I was right; it was even better than I anticipated!

This book managed to be a classic fairy tale itself, with David having to go on a heroic quest, fight beasts & fiends alike, save the girl, and free the kingdom; while also incorporating (and reimagining) a ton of existing fairy tales. It was really interesting to see how the original tales were twisted to fit David’s perception of what they would be like in ‘real life’.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that I ended up putting this into the “allegory” category for a reason. In a similar fashion to books like A Monster Calls and Four Kings, everything that happens in the ‘fairy tale’ world has a meaning for David’s life in the real world. Nothing is really thrown in just for the sake of it; pretty much everything that happens has a purpose. Certain characters are manifestations of ‘real life’ people, with a twist based on how David perceives them; and the events that happen around them all have a deeper meaning, if you are willing to look for it.

That being said, even if you are looking for just a fun tale without any hidden meanings, you should definitely read this one! The adventure on its own was insane! It read like a true Grimm Brothers tale, with genuinely scary monsters & people and real danger for the characters, with actual death for some of them. I was on the edge of my seat for the vast majority of the book.

I highly recommend this one for people who love old fairy tales (the dark & dangerous kind) or just a great adventure/coming-of-age tale. 🙂

Similar Book(s):

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Four Kings – M.D. Elster

Coraline – Neil Gaiman

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Book Review – Bibliomysteries

Book: Bibliomysteries – Author: Multiple (edited by Otto Penzler)

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Books About Books, Anthology

Description from Goodreads:

If you open your dictionary, you will discover that there is no such word as “bibliomystery.” However, most mystery readers know that the word refers to a mystery story that involves the world of books: a bookshop, a rare volume, a library, a collector, or a bookseller.

The stories in this unique collection were commissioned by the Mysterious Bookshop. They were written by some of the mystery genre’s most distinguished authors. Tough guys like Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Loren D. Estleman, and Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Bestsellers like Nelson DeMille, Anne Perry, and Jeffery Deaver. Edgar winners such as C. J. Box, Thomas H. Cook, and Laura Lippman.

Here you will discover Sigmund Freud dealing with an unwelcome visitor; Columbo confronting a murderous bookseller; a Mexican cartel kingpin with a fatal weakness for rare books; and deadly secrets deep in the London Library; plus books with hidden messages, beguiling booksellers, crafty collectors, and a magical library that is guaranteed to enchant you. The stories have been published in seven languages—one has sold more than 250,000 copies as an e-book (“The Book Case” by Nelson DeMille)—and another won the Edgar Allan Poe Award as the Best Short Story of the Year (“The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository” by John Connolly).  

Who knew literature could be so lethal!

My Review:

Bibliomysteries is an anthology put together by Otto Penzler, a well-known advocate of the mystery genre, and features fictional stories written by famous mystery authors which all involve books in some fashion. If you are a bibliophile (and if you’re reading this blog, that’s very likely) and especially if you are a devotee of the mystery genre like me, you will definitely enjoy this book.

Here’s the lineup:

– Introduction by Ian Rankin
– “An Acceptable Sacrifice ” by Jeffery Deaver
– “Pronghorns of the Third Reich” by C.J. Box
– “The Book of Virtue” by Ken Bruen
– “The Book of Ghosts” by Reed Farrel Coleman
– “The Final Testament” by Peter Blauner
– “What’s In A Name?” by Thomas H. Cook
– “Book Club” by Loren D. Estleman
– “Death Leaves A Bookmark” by William Link
– “The Book Thing” by Laura Lippman
– “The Scroll” by Anne Perry
– “It’s In the Book” by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
– “The Long Sonata of the Dead” by Andrew Taylor
– “Rides A Stranger” by David Bell
– “The Caxton Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
– “The Book Case” by Nelson DeMille.

I don’t want to give too much away by describing each story with any more detail than they do in the description (with how short each story is, I’d end up telling the whole thing!) but I will say that each story is very unique and it was fun seeing how different writers would work out completely different tales using the same prompt.

I enjoyed all of the stories, with one exception, which is really good odds for an anthology. My favorite two stories were “The Book Thing” by Laura Lippman & “The Caxton Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly (definite favorite!), with close runners up in “The Scroll” by Anne Perry & “Rides A Stranger” by David Bell.

I’d highly recommend this anthology to anyone who loves mysteries, especially if they also love books. It’s not only a fun ride, it’s also a great introduction to authors you may not have read yet. I know I’m definitely going to be adding some of these authors to my “TBR” pile! 🙂

Similar Book(s):

I’m never sure what to put here for anthologies, so I’m just going to link to all the author’s Goodreads pages so you can get a feel for them yourself:

– Ian Rankin
– Jeffery Deaver
– C.J. Box
– Ken Bruen
– Reed Farrel Coleman
– Peter Blauner
– Thomas H. Cook
– Loren D. Estleman
– William Link
– Laura Lippman
– Anne Perry
– Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
– Andrew Taylor
– David Bell
– John Connolly
– Nelson DeMille

Book Review – Borne

Book: Borne – Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Dystopia

Description from Goodreads:

In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford. 

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.

My Review:

Honesty upfront, I didn’t finish this book. I made it about 100 pages in before I gave up and took it back to the library.

“So why are you reviewing it?” 

Well, I personally didn’t enjoy this book, but I think it had a lot of potential and I can see where a lot of YOU might like it, so I wanted to put it out there.

Borne had a lot going for it. The description is intriguing, it has decent reviews, the cover is weird & beautiful…and I’m also apparently on a sci-fi kick, so that helped. 😉

The main character, Rachel, is a pretty kickbutt lady. She lives off the land and makes things work, continuing to survive despite the horrific landscape. The fact that she can still find it in herself to care for this creature she randomly finds one day, especially in the circumstances under which she lives, is admirable. (And extra props to the author for not attributing it to ‘female hormones’. I kept waiting for the reference to ‘maternal instincts’ but it never came. Thumbs up!)

The author is also great at world building, which is essential for a good sci-fi. You get really great “on the ground” descriptions of everything, from the poisonous river to the ruinous buildings to the weird, mutated creatures. The author does sneak in glimpses of how this strange world came about, but the main focus is on the here and now.

Also…GIANT BEAR. I’m still really intrigued as to how Mord came about. And what’s with all the bugs being used for everything, from medicine to memory enhancers to weapons? And the weird fish with the human face? And what the frick is Borne?!? I don’t want to spoil anything for those interested in reading the book, so I’ll stop there. Needless to say, I have A LOT of questions.

“Sounds like you actually liked the book. Why didn’t you finish it?”

Honestly, I really just wasn’t feeling this one. Put it down to actually not liking the book or the fact that I had just finished one I REALLY liked so it had a lot to live up to…whatever you want to go with. I’m not a huge fan of dystopias to begin with, so something about it has to grab me pretty early on in order for me to want to finish it. That just didn’t happen in this book. As intriguing as I found the world, it wasn’t enough to keep a hold of me.

And as much as I admired the main character, I didn’t really like her. Rachel is a hard person; completely understandable in her position, but not easy to empathize with. Considering there were only three real characters in the book, the other two of which barely spoke, not caring about the main character at all was a major drag.

Also, I couldn’t stand the writing style. Which isn’t to say it was bad, just not my cup of tea. I have difficulty with “train of thought” books and, while this wasn’t QUITE the same thing, it didn’t really have enough structure for me to read easily. The pacing was also EXTREMELY slow, which worked really well in the last book I reviewed (The Long Earth), but was just annoying in this one. ::shrugs::

I guess what I’m saying is: I didn’t really like this one, but if you like dystopias, weird sci-fi, or kickbutt female protagonists you should definitely try it out! As for me, I’m going to get started on the second book in the Long Earth series. 😉

Similar Book(s):

Hmm, I’d say This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab) but that’s not really similar at all…

We’ll just go with one of the Jeff VanderMeer’s other books: Annihilation

 

Book Review – The Long Earth

Book: The Long Earth – Author: Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi

Description from Goodreads:

From the back jacket:

NORMALLY, WHEN THERE WAS NOTHING TO DO, HE LISTENED TO THE SILENCE.

The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable…. This was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn’t Joshua’s world. None of it was his world. In fact, when you got right down to it, he didn’t have a world; he had all of them.

ALL OF THE LONG EARTH.

From the inside jacket:

The possibilities are endless. Just be careful what you wish for….

1916: The Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of no-man’s-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive–some said mad, others allege dangerous–scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson finds a curious gadget: a box containing some rudimentary wiring, a three-way switch, and…a potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way humankind views the world forever.

My Review:

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one. I’ve never read anything by Stephen Baxter and have only liked a couple of the books I’ve read so far by Terry Pratchett. The description intrigued me, however, so I decided to give it a go.

I’ll start by saying, I really like the main character, Joshua. He’s a bit of an oddball, but he seems so normal in comparison to the type of characters you usually get who are tasked with “saving the world”. No real brooding or whining about how his life has turned out, Joshua is more of a live-in-the-moment kind of person. But he’s also not the type to throw that in your face or act recklessly. Joshua is subdued, almost to the point of stoicism, but without being all holier-than-thou about it. And I really connected with his desire to be alone, while still needed to connect to people. It’s one of those “I like being alone, but I don’t fancy being lonely” type things that quite a lot of us introverts have to deal with.

I also really like the character of Lobsang. A sentient digital being, he’s always insisting that he’s human, but you can tell he’s still trying to figure out exactly what “being human” means. He’s almost like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, though a bit more condescending and a lot more physically versatile. 😉 I loved that Lobsang and Joshua seem to hit it off rather than being at odds with each other all the time. The differences between the two are definitely acknowledged, but the writers don’t resort to the usual unnecessary tension that comes with having two such unique characters.

One of the things I ended up enjoying the most about the book, though, is actually something I think might put a lot of people off — the pacing. This book is SLOW. It makes sense in context; exploring hundreds of thousands of alternate Earths would take quite some time. And since this book is the lead in to a full series, the authors have the space to take as long as they want. The book also meanders a bit, throwing in seemingly random chapters that introduce new characters and explain how stepping has changed their lives. But none of the information we are given is completely useless; everything has a purpose.

I like books that allow themselves to tell the story at their own pace. Some jump into the action right off the bat, and those stories can be great too. But there is no need to rush anything in a series like this. Explain to us how stepping started. Describe as many of the “new” Earths as you can. Talk to us about how evolution might have gone differently to create these “new” creatures. Sci-fi lovers revel in the details. And as much as I like super-exciting, in-your-face stories sometimes, it’s the novels that take their time to introduce me to their new worlds fully and completely that really stick with me.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to…well, everyone. But mainly people who love sci-fi, books with incredible world-building, or anyone with the exploring bug.

And don’t worry, action lovers, things really start to pick up towards the end…

Similar Book(s):

In feel if not in content…

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

 

Book Review – Shadows At The Fair

Book: Shadows At The Fair (Book 1 – Antique Print Mysteries) – Author: Lea Wait

Genre: Fiction, Cozy Mysteries

Description from Goodreads:

Ignorance is bliss for Maggie Summer, proprietor of Shadow Antiques, when she arrives at the prestigious Rensselaer County Spring Antiques Fair. She won’t remain ignorant of the suspicious mortality rate among fellow antiques dealers. With its riveting behind-the-scenes glimpse of antiques shows and revealing data on antique-print values, “Shadows At The Fair” introduces a captivating new series that unveils the powerful mysteries of antique prints, as it entertains.

My Review:

If you’ve read my blog before, then you are likely aware of my favorite guilty reading pleasure: Cozy Mysteries. I don’t know why I like them. Sure, I’m a huge fan of mysteries in general, but the heroines of cozy mysteries tend to really annoy me. They often hide evidence from the police, flat out lie to protect people they aren’t even sure are innocent, put themselves in REALLY stupid situations, and fall in love at the drop of the hat (usually with the murderer). Like I said, most of them drive me nuts…but I love them anyway. ::shrugs::

Shadows at the Fair was an impulse grab at the library that turned out to be a great read. I really enjoyed this one, mostly because I actually really liked the main character, Maggie. She almost reminded me of myself; probably because we are close in age and both like antiques, but she seemed to have a similar mindset to me as well.

None of the characters were super well fleshed out, but considering the length and genre of the book, the author did a nice job giving the reader enough information to work with without being overwhelming. The relationships were a little confusing, but exactly the right amount of complicated for a mystery. We learn about them as Maggie learns about them, a bit here and a bit there, so we ourselves are piecing together the puzzle alongside our heroine.

The mystery turned out really interesting too. I didn’t actually guess who the murder was until close to the end and I had no idea WHY they were killing people until they explained it to Maggie. I always love it when the author can surprise me!

The romance (because there is ALWAYS a romance) was rather downplayed in this book. I liked that. It was nice that Maggie didn’t just jump into a romance, especially with a suspect. Considering her backstory, it made perfect sense that she would want to get to know a man before deciding he was the one for her. Logic isn’t usually close at hand for cozy mystery romances, so it was a nice change. 😉

The only thing that bothered me about this book was the repeated use of the word “retarded” and the complete dismissal most of the characters had about mentally challenged people. I can get what the author was trying to do (when you read it in context, it KIND of makes sense) but the fact that everyone except Maggie just shrugged and said “you know those kind of people are unpredictable” really, REALLY bugged me. Considering the book isn’t that old (published in 2002), I would have expected a few more open-minded people.

Overall, this was a nice, quick read. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a fun, easy mystery. I’ll likely pick up the next in the series the next time I’m at the library. 🙂

Similar Book(s):

Night of the Living Deed – E.J. Copperman

Crewel World – Monica Ferris

Like Cozy Mysteries? Want more suggestions? Check out this Cozy Mysteries Group on Goodreads!

 

Library Haul – I Never Just Stick to the List!

Well, I’m out of projects at work, so I was taking a break from my back-up editing and perusing Goodreads when I stumbled upon a book called ‘The Long Earth’. Sounded intriguing, so I decided to make a trip up the street to the local library to grab it and one other book that I’d been looking at a few days ago. Then this happened…

The Long Earth (Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter)

thelongearthNORMALLY, WHEN THERE WAS NOTHING TO DO, HE LISTENED TO THE SILENCE. The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable…. This was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn’t Joshua’s world. None of it was his world. In fact, when you got right down to it, he didn’t have a world; he had all of them. I seem to be on a sci-fi kick lately and, though I haven’t been super fond of my attempts at the DiscWorld series, Terry Pratchett’s storylines always sound so intriguing that I thought I’d give him another chance.

Borne (Jeff VanderMeer)

borneIn Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech. One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. I don’t normally enjoy dystopians, but I keep coming back to this one on Goodreads. I’m not sure why, but I figure I’ll go with my gut and try it out.

Shadows at the Fair (Lea Wait)

shadowsatthefairIgnorance is truly bliss for recently widowed Maggie Summer, owner of Shadows Antiques, when she arrives at the prestigious Rensselaer County Spring Antiques Fair. Sadly, she won’t remain ignorant of the suspiciously high mortality rate among her fellow antiques dealers for long. Rumors are everywhere. The most recent victim, John Smithson, died of poison at a show just last week, and many of the same dealers are here at Rensselaer. They make the identical circuit year after year, so they know each other well. Or do they? The opening night wine has hardly stopped flowing when death claims another victim. Maggie will still sell a few antique prints, but she’ll spend most of her time looking for a killer and trying to save a vulnerable young friend. Will Maggie herself become a potential victim? The answer may be in one of Maggie’s prints, but she has hundreds in her booth. Where should she begin? I do so love my guilty pleasure cozy mysteries. I passed by this one three times while looking for my other books and decided to just go for it. 🙂

Matchless (Gregory Maguire)

matchlessWith ‘Matchless’, Gregory Maguire has reinvented the Hans Christian Andersen classic ‘The Little Match Girl’ for a new time and new audiences. Originally asked by National Public Radio to write an original story with a Christmas theme, the New York Times bestselling author of ‘Wicked’ and ‘A Lion Among Men’ was once again inspired by the fairy tales we all loved in childhood—and he composed a poignant and enchanting tale of transcendence. A lovely and beautifully illustrated gift, ‘Matchless’ places Andersen’s pitiful waif in the august company of Maguire’s previously re-imagined Snow White (Mirror, Mirror), Cinderella (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), and, of course, the Wicked Witch and other denizens of Oz. I’m not sure what caught my eye about this book, maybe it was the really bright green cover sitting on the end of it’s shelf or maybe it was the author’s name (he always uses that very distinct font). I don’t really like Gregory Maguire; ‘Wicked’ was disappointing and I barely got started on ‘Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister’ before I DNF’d it. But I really, really WANT to like Gregory Maguire, so I keep trying anyway. Sigh.

And from my own shelf…

I’m actually currently in the middle of another book, which has been quite fun so far. Guess it’ll be on hold for a bit now. 😉

Off To Be The Wizard (Scott Meyer)

offtobethewizardMartin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard. An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin… and not, y’know, die or anything. I bought this one because it just sounded hilarious. I kind of have a thing about modern people getting stuck in the past (and vice versa); when done right, they can be really entertaining stories. I’m about halfway on this one and it has been a blast so far. I’ll be honest, the main character is a little annoying, but he’s growing on me. And I think there might be a “wizard” battle on the horizon!


So what’s on your To-Read List?

Book Review – The Juliet

Book: The Juliet – Author: Laura Ellen Scott

Genre: Adult, Adventure, Western?, Treasure Hunt

Description from Goodreads:

During Death Valley’s great wildflower bloom of 2005, retired cowboy actor Rigg Dexon gives a rootless woman a gift that will change her life forever: the deed to The Mystery House, a century old shack long thought to be the hiding place of a legendary emerald known as The Juliet. Willie Judy remembers Dexon from cereal commercials she watched as a kid, but now she’ll spend the next seven days searching for the truth about him, the house, and herself, as the history of The Juliet reveals the American Dream’s dark side—one that is corrupt, bawdy, and half insane. (see listing here)

My Review:

Where to start…

This was an odd one. Though the description above focuses on only two characters, the book itself is more about the history of the jewel and ALL of it’s owners, not just Rigg & Willie. The entire lifetime of the Juliet is shown, along with all the despicable things people did to each other in order possess the gem.

I will say, the novel hopped around quite a bit in the Juliet’s history, going back and forth between all the owners’ stories at once, instead of running a direct timeline. This made sense in the context of the story, but it was somewhat difficult to follow. The author DID include the dates at the beginning of each section, but I still had some trouble remembering who lived in which year, though not enough to throw me out of the story.

It helped that I really liked the author’s writing style. All the characters seemed completely believable, which, considering the wide variety, was pretty impressive. Even though most of the characters were all similarly greedy, the author managed to imbue each of them with their own sense of purpose and individuality. And, as easy as it would have been to go overboard with the ways in which the characters obtain the Juliet, you never have to throw on the “suspension of disbelief” switch in this novel. Even the most unbelievable of twists seemed entirely believable with this cast of characters.

The author also managed to encapsulate the time periods in which she was writing fairly well, without falling into the common pit of overdoing the accents & dialogue or focusing too much on historical details. The scenes in older time periods were just as easy to follow as the modern ones and, though there was some description of the locations/clothes/etc, the focus stayed where it should, on the Juliet and her devotees.

I ended up really enjoying this book. Putting all the bits and pieces of the story together into one cohesive storyline made me feel like I was also on a treasure hunt, the treasure being the Juliet’s history rather than the stone itself.

Similar Book(s):

Yyyyeeeaahhh…I got nothin’. So I’m just going to list the author’s other works. 😉

Death Wishing & The Mean Bone in Her Body