Book 41

13 May 2017

Dune by Frank Herbert




Title: Dune

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Dune-Sequence-Frank-Herbert-ebook/dp/B004KA9UXO/

Genre: Science fiction, Fantasy

Pages: 610                                              

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Not Recommended

Have you heard of “Dune”? You might have, if you’re a sci-fi fan. “Dune” is the highest selling sci-fi novel of all times. Why? I have no idea. “Dune” is the greatest book disappointment of my life. I had never read anything so popular and found it absolutely atrocious. The idea is great, original, even breathtaking.

The troubles begin when stewardship of Arrakis is transferred by the Emperor from the Harkonnen Noble House to House Atreides. The Harkonnens don't want to give up their privilege, though, and through sabotage and treachery they cast young Duke Paul Atreides out into the planet's harsh environment to die. There he falls in with the Fremen, a tribe of desert dwellers who become the basis of the army with which he will reclaim what's rightfully his. Paul Atreides, though, is far more than just a usurped duke. He might be the end product of a very long-term genetic experiment designed to breed a super human; he might be a messiah. His struggle is at the center of a nexus of powerful people and events, and the repercussions will be felt throughout the Imperium.

The execution is horrific. I read all 610 pages and hated every second of it. Maybe because the main characters' names were Paul and Jessica? Maybe because if I once again read the words “Bene Gesserit Training” I would poke my eyes out? Or maybe because I hated the words “Kwisatz Haderach” and couldn’t take reading them anymore? Or maybe it was the “Lisan al-Gaib” that drove me mad?

But seriously, “Dune” is unforgivingly boring. I couldn’t wait getting to the parts with the worms. Yes, there are worms on the planet Arrakis, huge, miles-long worms that move across the barren deserts of Arrakis. But I never saw the worms in their glory. A scarce description was all I got. Then suddenly Paul is riding one of them. And the book was so full of inner thoughts that I wanted to grab the characters and yell into their faces, “Stop talking in your mind!” And the POV! It was all over the place.

I have never in my life read such static writing. It just wasn’t moving. I was slogging through the book, feeling how life was going out of me with every page.

I’m not a cruel person to recommend this book to the awisls. No, I won’t do it, because there was nothing good about it.



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Book 40

12 December 2016

Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King




 

Title: Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Bazaar-Bad-Dreams-Stories-ebook/dp/B00UDCI1AG

Genre: Horror, Paranormal

Pages: 510                                              

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Recommended

Here’s a funny thing. I have always loved King’s short stories. I had always been reading them in Russian translation. From the moment I started reading them in English, I stopped liking them as much as I used to. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Maybe it’s just that his older stuff is so much better than the new stuff. I can’t say that I loved The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, but I also didn’t hate it. It was an okay collection. Only, it was not up to King’s standards. If this had been written by some newbie, no one would pay attention. The stories were not memorable. I so miss the classic King short stories. This bazaar was full of tedium. The only one I might remember after a week is probably Mile 81, a mix of Christine and The Raft.

While I wasn’t crazy about this collection, I still read almost all stories. They may not be very interesting, but King is still a great writer with great English. While his latest full-length novels were a pain to read, the short stories are much easier to swallow. I would certainly recommend this collection to the awisls.



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Book 39

11 December 2016

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman




 

Title: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IORP664/

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: 305                                              

Status: Not Finished

Recommended for awisls: Not Recommended

I am probably a bad person. How else could I dislike a book that has more than 5000 positive reviews? A book, which everyone seems to love. Which will be a movie soon.

I have no idea what’s wrong with me? Are my expectations too high? Or maybe I’m just an old, mean-spirited, jealous little person? I really don’t know, but I couldn’t get into this book. It started well. An old man called Ove was buying a computer. And he was a grumpy old man. I could just imagine Ove looking like this:

 

But then, something went wrong. Ove wasn’t grumpy in a funny or interesting way. He was boring. I didn't find his character endearing. I understand that the book was suppsoed to be about a grumpy old man, who would have a change of heart, but Ove just didn't grab my attention. And the people in his neighborhood weren’t interesting either. I kept reading, waiting for them to do something that would keep me interested in their lives, but alas, it wasn’t happening. This was just not my kind of book. There came a moment when I had to put it away without finishing. I didn't even care to open the last page and see how it ended.

P.S. The writing was too simplistic to recommend it to the awisls.



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Book 38

18 November 2016

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, John E. Woods (Translator)




Title: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, John E. Woods (Translator)

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140120831/

Genre: Historical, Mystery

Pages: 273                                              

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Highly Recommended

This is one of the most original and unusual books I’ve ever read. I think it’s in a genre of its own. The other book that has left such an impression on me, deserving its own genre, is “The Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov, and it says a lot. People love to discuss this one. There’s even a movie with late Alan Rickman. I could talk about “Perfume” very long, but something tells me I’m a bit late to the party. A lot has been said and written. All I can say now is that I recommend this book to those who want to read something extraordinary and original that is not bound to a single genre, and also to the awisls, who will benefit greatly from reading such a masterfully written novel.

Also, the translation by John E. Woods is stunning. I’m not sure I have ever read such an amazing translation.



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Book 37

18 November 2016

The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle




Title: The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1940026016

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Technothriller, Science Fiction

Pages: 464                            

Status: Not Finished

Recommended for awisls: Not Recommended

I think it’s fair to expect something incredible from a book, which has 13.000 reviews on Amazon, is a bestseller and an upcoming movie. And when the expectations are high, the disappointment is also big. But you know what, I would think the same about this book even if it had zero reviews. It was messy. Disjointed. There were more than 150 chapters, very short chapters, like movie scenes with a lot of POVs. There was a bit of Indiana Jones, a bit of The Thing, a bit of Aliens vs. Predators, a bit of The Da Vinci Code, well, a bit of everything. This book was trying to be everything, and in my humble opinion, that was its biggest problem. I read more than the half; I hate leaving books unfinished, but after a while I had to let it go. We both were torturing each other. I am sure there are a lot of people who loved “The Atlantis Gene.” I’m just not among them.

I can’t recommend this book to awisls. It wasn’t well written.



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Book 36

18 November 2016

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini




Title: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Mountains-Echoed-Khaled-Hosseini-ebook/dp/B009XIXVU6/

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Pages: 404                            

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Recommended

This was my first Hosseini book. All I knew about him was that he was a traditionally published author with highly rated books. While Hosseini’s genre isn’t the one I usually prefer I couldn’t pass by him without getting to know his books. I am always eager to read well-written books (all you awisls should do the same). While I can’t say that I loved “And the Mountains Echoed,” I am extremely happy that I picked it up.

I’ll start from the cons. Hosseini is a masterful storyteller. He’s amazing. He’s stunning. He’s all I wish I were. His prose is beautiful, balanced, readable. Somehow he makes you forget about everything and keep reading. I can't recommend him enough to anyne who wants to know what's good writing. We all can learn a lot from Khaled Hosseini.

So why didn’t I love the book, if Hosseini is so good? I don’t know. To be honest, I picked up “And the Mountains Echoed,” because according to Amazon it was just 145 pages, and I wanted to read something fast. But it turned out that the book was actually 400 pages. It wouldn’t really matter; the book started so well. I was hooked from the first paragraph. But then, something happened. The story, while masterfully written, began to drag. My excitement was dying away slowly. The second half was so overlong, I couldn’t help finish the book and be over with it. It’s a big shame.

I checked the reviews, and it turns out that for many readers “And the Mountains Echoed” is Hosseini’s weakest work. If I wasn’t misled by Amazon’s page count I might’ve picked up “The Kite Runner,” which seems to be another outstanding book by Hosseini. I might still pick it one day, but surely not now. Hosseini’s stories are filled with sadness and human tragedies and right now I’m having a hard time reading that kind of books.



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Book 35

01 October 2016

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern




Title: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Night-Circus-Vintage-Magic-ebook/dp/B005AKFXZW/

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 401                            

Status: Not Finished

Recommended for awisls: Not Sure

I can’t remember feeling so conflicted about a book before. Believe it or not, but I’m really upset for not liking The Night Circus. It has such great ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. Many readers speak highly of this book, and I picked it up with high expectations, but alas, The Night Circus is one of the few books that I could not finish.

The first few chapters were full of promises. The imaginary was great, the setting beautiful. The circus was enchanting, in the beginning. But then I stopped understanding what I was reading. I still don’t know what this books was about. The blurb and the book have very little to do with each other. The blurb promised a battle between two wizards, which was nowhere to be found in the book, but that wasn’t my problem. My problem was the plot. It was there, somewhere between the pages, but it was so vague I could hardly see it. My other problem were the characters. None of them piqued my interest, which is really a shame, because they all had potentials and could be truly memorable.

You might laugh at me and even call me a bad writer, but I will say it: this book was too wordy. Sometimes I felt like I was reading not a fiction, but the Oxford Dictionary. There were so many words in this book I got lost in them. I love words, I write them down in my notebooks, I study them. But a book doesn’t have to be a dictionary. A book needs to be entertaining. After The Night Circus began rapidly losing its charm I still managed to read another 100 pages. I reached the 66% point on my kindle and felt exhausted.

It’s a real shame, because I really wanted to finish this book. I was ready to fall in love with it. It was just not for me. Many readers love it and I can only envy them. They saw the beauty that I couldn’t spot. Maybe I’m really blind.

Do I recommend this to awisl? I’m not sure. If you can read it as a textbook, you might learn some new words. But read it at your own risk.



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Book 34

01 August 2016

Throttle by Stephen King and Joe Hill




Title: Throttle by Stephen King and Joe Hill

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Throttle-Kindle-Single-Joe-Hill-ebook/dp/B007QXV9S6/

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Pages: 50                              

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Recommended

When 50 paged short story is sold alone, I expect it to be a powerful thing. Otherwise, why would you sell it alone, instead of combining it with a few other stories, thus ending up with an interesting collection? Throttle seems to be inspired by Sons of Anarchy TV series, of which King is a fan. In case someone doesn’t know, Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. His characters dwell in the same universe as King’s characters. Throttle is a well written short story about bikers, with interesting characteristics and good action scenes. It’s also extremely violent, so be warned. However, it wasn’t as good as King’s other stories. My take is that it was mostly written by Joe Hill. No other author loves the word “embankment” as much as him.



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Book 33

01 August 2016

Mr. Mercedes (The Bill Hodges Trilogy Book 1) by Stephen King




Title: Mr. Mercedes (The Bill Hodges Trilogy Book 1)

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Mercedes-Bill-Hodges-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00HW2EHEO/

Genre: Crime, Suspense, Thriller

Pages: 417                            

Status: Skipped

Recommended for awisls: Not Recommended

Stephen King has taught me a lot. His older stuff is brilliant (with a few exceptions). He’s one of the best short story writers. He’s the King of Horror. He means a lot to many aspiring writers. I have read almost everything by S. King (with a few exceptions). After Mr. Mercedes, I don’t think I’ll touch a King book ever again. Something has changed about his novels. They are not gripping, they do nothing to me. Where is the man who wrote The Mist? The Shining? Dolores Claiborne? What the hell was this book? You can stone me and pelt me, throw rotten tomatoes at me, say that tastes differ, that different people like different things, but nothing will change the fact that this was a poor excuse of a thriller. If Mr. Mercedes were written by an indie author, it would have been torn to pieces, hanged, quartered, burnt with acid, and ridiculed to the very last sentence. Think about every cliché and be sure to find it in this book:

  1. A retired cop who will get the bad guy all alone or with the help of a few friends? Check!
  2. A maniac with daddy issues, mommy fantasies, who’s also a sibling-killing homophobic racist spending time in mom’s basement and wanting glory for his crimes? Check! (this has to be King’s worst antagonist ever)
  3. A beautiful woman out of the main guy’s league going for the main guy? Check!
  4. A young prodigy who knows computer stuff and helps our computer illiterate main guy? Check!

I might have stumbled upon more clichés if I didn’t start skipping from the 40% point of the book. It was unreadable. It was boring. It was lacking. It was dull, colorless, lazy. It wasn’t even as well written as a lot of King’s old stuff. This book was not even average. I thought that Duma Key was King’s worst. Then I thought Under the Dome was King’s worst. Then I thought that nothing could be worse than Dr. Sleep. Turns out I was wrong each time. Mr. Mercedes is a very long drivel. How could the man behind Salem’s Lot pen this? Either this was written by a ghost writer, or King needs a long vacation.

I’m sorry to say this, but the King is naked.



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Book 32

18 July 2016

Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs




Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children Book 1)

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Miss-Peregrines-Home-Peculiar-Children-ebook/dp/B004FGMDOQ/

Genre: Teen and Young Adult

Pages: 352                            

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Not Recommended

I had heard a lot of negative things about this book before I picked it up. I have to admit it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. It was just okay. This is one of those books which many seem to love, but which did absolutely nothing to me. I picked up Miss Peregrine when I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie. Here’s a fact: the movie seems to have very little in common with the book. But I’m not going to draw parallels now, especially when the movie hasn’t come out yet.

Let me just say why I didn’t like this book and move forward:

  1. I didn’t like the main protagonist. Jacob was 16 in the book, but very often it seemed to me that he was 12 or 13 at most. His behavior wasn’t like one of a 16 year old boy.
  2. Those who don’t like the book say it’s too much like X Men, but with kids. I didn’t have a problem with X Men similarities. But I didn’t like the peculiarities. To me they were uninteresting and unoriginal. A girl who ignites fire, an invisible boy, a very, very strong girl, a boy who sees the bad guys, etc.
  3. The cursing. I guess I’m old-fashioned, so to me words like “shit,” “bitch,” “asshole” have nothing to do in a YA book.
  4. I didn’t care about a single character. Not even about the bad guys. The goodies were boring, the baddies were underdeveloped.
  5. I also didn't buy the fact that the bad guys, given their background and lives, could have real-life jobs. Didn't seem plausible.
  6. The ending. Or should I say the lack of ending? While not exactly a cliffhanger, the ending felt rushed, as if the author wanted the story just to be over, so he could work on something more interesting.

I don’t know if I’ll check the movie when it comes out. But I will definitely not read the rest of the series. Just not for me.



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Book 31

18 July 2016

Wreckage by Emily Bleeker




Title: Wreckage

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Wreckage-Emily-Bleeker-ebook/dp/B00NAJZDIM/   

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Pages: 305                            

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Not Recommended

 

This review might contain spoilers.
Four people get stranded on an inhabited island. Two of them have been rescued. They are lying about what really happened during the past two years on the island. They say the deaths of the other two were accidents. But could it be that something had gone awry on that island? Had there been a game of survival? Did they kill each other? For food? For safety? Out of madness? A gruesome and heartbreaking story of cannibalism?
Sounds interesting? I had thought so too when I picked up this book. It had so many 5-star ratings I thought it was going to be something new. Something that we haven't seen already in dozens of Hollywood movies about people surviving on an island.
I was wrong. 90% of this book is romance on an island. Two people fall in love and have an island affair. 90% of this book was them eating, sleeping, swimming in the ocean, fishing, talking, walking, remembering, kissing, washing, dreaming, wondering, musing, feeling happy, feeling sad, feeling hungry, feeling sick, and so on and on. 300 pages!!!
There was a tiny bit of action which started and ended at the 40% point of the book. There was absolutely no mystery. Why is this book listed as mystery and thriller? Someone on Amazon needs to correct its genre. It's romance, with all the elements. It was simple as 2+2 that a child had been born on the island, that the child hadn't survived. So obvious it's not even a spoiler, because they mention the child's name very early in the book. Did the author think her readers were brain damaged? And so what if there had been a child? I still don't understand what was the big deal? There are so many "so what's" in this book I don't even know if I have to mention them.
This was the slowest book I had read in ages. But even the slowest books had at least one redeeming quality: an unexpected turn in the story. This one has none. 300 pages of nothing.
I'm not mad because I was once again cheated by the glowing reviews. I'm mad because the book was wrongly categorized. I don't like romance, and I wasted two days reading romance, when I could have picked a much better book. The worst thing an author can do to a reader is stealing their time. I should have left this one unfinished, but I hate abandoning books midway, and I also thought that maybe I was wrong, maybe there would be something unexpected. A big twist, a huge revelation, mind-shattering and innovative. The pages came and went, and still nothing happened on that island. Nothing but love floating in the air above the Pacific.



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Book 30

06 July 2016

Broken Dolls by Tyrolin Puxty




Title: Broken Dolls

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Broken-Dolls-Tyrolin-Puxty-ebook/dp/B015JMSTF6/  

Genre: Children’s Books, Scary Stories

Pages: 176                            

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Recommended

One of the most original stories I’ve read in 2016. Touched me. Left me with a moist feeling in my eyes. I picked up the “Broken Dolls” because it was free and because it had one of the most beautiful book covers I had ever seen. If I decide to do a “best cover” by the end of 2016, this one will definitely be in the top 3.

I’m sure that a harsh critic will point out a few inconsistencies in the plot and that the characters’ actions weren’t always logical, but I didn’t care. This book made me vulnerable. I just can’t explain it. Usually I am good at guessing the twist, and I thought I had done it once again, but no, it was something else. And it was sadder than I had thought. Rarely has a book made me feel so sad.

This is the first book in a planned trilogy, but I won’t read the rest. And I have the most bizarre explanation. I am just scared. This book touched me on such an emotional level I’m scared to spoil the “aftertaste.” It was perfect this way. I don’t know what the author will decide to do next, but I’ll be broken if this sweet little story turns into a Hollywood style blockbuster.

The “Broken Dolls” was simply written, there were no big words or interesting sentence structures, but I will nevertheless recommend it to the awisls because of the story itself. It was beautifully done.



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Book 29

06 July 2016

Vivaldis Virgins by Barbara Quick




Title: Vivaldi’s Virgins

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Vivaldis-Virgins-Barbara-Quick-ebook/dp/B000SCHBY8/  

Genre: Historical

Pages: 308                            

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Recommended

Advice: Read with Vivalid’s music sounding in the background.

The Plot: Fourteen-year-old Anna Maria, abandoned at the Ospedale della Pietà as an infant, is determined to find out who she is and where she came from. Her quest takes her beyond the cloister walls into the complex tapestry of Venetian society.

I liked this book. I’d give it 3.5 half stars out of 5. I loved Venetia, the gondolas, the atmosphere. And I love Vivaldi’s music. There are many aspects in the book that I truly enjoyed. But there were are a lot of parts I found boring. There were very few dynamics. Most of the time the story was about the girls at the Pieta learning to play the violin or sneaking out from their orphanage and getting into troubles. Anna Maria wasn’t a very interesting narrator. Most of the time I found her boring and even silly, because she couldn't see a very obvious thing. But, she said some things that touched me. I could relate to her nostalgia and many of her musings on life and dead sounded like my own.

There was a small twist in the book, but I’m not sure if it was intended to be a mystery or not. Because if it was a mystery it was poorly concealed. Very soon it became obvious who were Anna Maria’s mother, her father, and even her brother.

Still, as I already said, I liked the book, because of its atmosphere. It was a short time travel, the story of Ospedale della Pietà was interesting, and it is always a great pleasure to read about historical characters in a fiction. Neither the author nor the reader have known the real-life Vivaldi, but one can always wonder that, maybe, he has acted that way in real life.

The writing wasn’t bad, so I’d recommend this book to awisls. Authors of historical books always do a lot of research, which is beneficial for an awisl.

My only complaint is the lack of table of contents. The book was badly formatted, had some typos, which made me wonder if it had been published by an indie or a traditional publisher. Amazon says Harper-Collins. Go figure.

Let's enjoy a bit of Vivaldi's genius, shall we?



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Book 28

01 July 2016

The Autobiography of @ by Jeff Abugov




Title: The Autobiography of @

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Autobiography-short-story-Jeff-Abugov-ebook/dp/B00RUVRW8U

Genre: Humor, satire

Pages: 24                           

This has to be one of the most hilarious books I've ever read. I have to admit I don’t remember how this short story has appeared in my Kindle. Probably it has been on a free promo, and I have downloaded it. I hadn’t paid attention to the genre, and when I started reading, I couldn’t understand what the hell was going on. I thought I was going to read about how the symbol @ had come into use and some boring stuff. On the second page I finally realized what exactly I was reading, ha-ha! :) And the more I read about the @, his friend cent (who’s not even on my keyboard), his rival ;, and his crush *, the more I loved the story.

This story is brilliant, smart, original, and funny. Just 24 pages long, it managed to make me feel emotionally involved in the characters on the keyboard. Some authors can’t do that even with 400 pages.

Just take my word and check it out. You won’t be sorry.



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Book 27

01 July 2016

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller




Title: The Song of Achilles

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Song-Achilles-Madeline-Miller-ebook/dp/B006IE2IO8/

Genre: Historical

Pages: 369                         

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Highly recommended

I am a big Greek Mythology fan. Not just a big fan, I love, love, love Greek Mythology. Have loved it since early childhood. I can tell you all about Hercules and his Twelve Labors, about Perseus, Theseus, Orpheus, Jason and the Argonauts, and even about those who are not so well known, ‘cause for me there are no small heroes or half-gods.

But, for some reason, I never read the legend about Troy. Every mythology lover knows about Achilles, Hector, Paris and Helen, Priam, Menelaus and Agamemnon, so it's not like I had totally neglected them, I was just an Odysseus fan.

When I picked up "The Song of Achilles," I didn't know it was going to follow the Iliad. But it did, and I couldn't be happier. The book is told from Patroculus's point of view, a supporting character of the Iliad and Achilles’s friend and companion. I loved the first half of the book, the story of how Patroculus came to know Achilles and how their love bloomed. The second half was about the 10-year war of Troy, and there were a few parts that I didn't enjoy, characters I didn't like and wished they weren't in the book (it turned out they were from the Iliad and had to be there). I really wished there was less war and more about Achilles and Patroculus. Patroculus was a good narrator, making me feel for him and sympathize with him. Achilles, though, wasn’t as well fleshed out, sometimes he came as two-dimensional. I don’t know if he was intentionally shown that way, but I wanted to see more of his personality, to know him as well as I knew Patroculus.

And because I wasn’t an Iliad pro and didn’t know the fates of every character, there was a big surprise awaiting for me in the last few chapters. I don’t want to spoil the book, but the twist was effectively done, and the way the story went on was beautiful and original.

But the best part of this book was the writing. It was stunning. I'm so grateful to the promo site (I've forgotten which one) for sending me a newsletter about the daily deal (I paid just $1.99 for this treasure). It's one of the best written books I've read this year. Madeline Miller has done a fantastic job. I wish she had more books.

I highly recommend "The Song of Achilles" to every awisl.



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Book 26

15 June 2016

Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin




Title: Tuf Voyaging

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Tuf-Voyaging-George-R-R-Martin-ebook/dp/B009SS9632

Genre: Sci-fi, Action and Adventure

Pages: 448                         

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Recommended

 

Have I said already that I love George Martin’s writing? I guess I have to repeat it at least once a month :)))

“Tuf Voyaging” is written as well as the rest of Martin’s books, and consists of seven sci-fi stories about Haviland Tuf, a space trader who comes across a ginormous spaceship and in a crazy battle between his ex-companions becomes its sole possessor.

The book started well; I was loving Martin’s writing and imagination. He had created some truly creepy monsters from far away planets. I loved how Tuf crossed the vast space and encountered all those scary creatures and inhabitants from other worlds, all of whom where in some kind of need. Unfortunately the book began going downhill from the second story. By the end of the seventh I was happy that it was over.

While Martin is a fantastic writer, his stories sometime tend to get a bit boring. Those who have read “The Song of Ice and Fire” aka “The Game of Thrones” know what I mean. A masterful writer, Martin can drag and drag and drag and not tell anything interesting. Very soon “Tuf Voyaging” became dull. Tuf himself was an unlikable character, and maybe that was one of the reasons I wanted to finish the book ASAP. He was portrayed as a kind and honorable person, hating violence and doing everything to stop it, but seriously, he was very unlikable. So much that by the end I just couldn’t stand him anymore. I haven’t met a character more arrogant and self-conceited than Haviland Tuf. I want to keep my review spoiler-free, so won’t go into details, but Tuf’s know-it-all behavior really got on my nerves. Still, I'm not sorry I read the book. If you're a Martin fan, by all means give it a try.

Of course I recommend this book to the awisl. George R.R. Martin’s books are a must-read; don’t miss them.



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Book 25

10 June 2016

Insects by John Koloen




Title: Insects

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Insects-Novel-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B016N4Z58I

Genre: Horror, Action and Adventure

Pages: 422     

Status: Not finished

Recommended for awisls: Not recommended

I honestly thought I was going to enjoy this book the moment I read the blurb. Who doesn’t like a horror story about those creepy little things with antennae? There are a lot of horror movies about killer spiders, ants, roaches, snakes, scorpions, and other little crawling baddies, and very often I enjoy them for what they are. Of course I turn away from the screen whenever those little bastards attack an unfortunate character. With books it’s a bit harder, but I admit to skipping a few lines when the insects began their deadly march. The book read like one of those horror movies, with short chapters and a bunch of characters, many of whom, for obvious reasons, weren’t going to make it to the end. The story started well, but after a while it began dragging. I am always determined to finish a book once I start it, however by the 51% point I deleted the book from my kindle. It’s a real shame, considering how fun the story had seemed to me. To be honest I don’t really know what went wrong. Maybe there were just too many characters, and I had a hard time telling one from the other. None of the characters was interesting or charismatic enough to make me care for their destiny. Maybe there were too many conversations between small groups of characters, and not enough action. Maybe it was just not my type of book. Or maybe it was because I had reached half of the book and still didn’t care if anyone from the group would survive. Sadly, by the time I reached the middle I had lost total interest.

I would have finished the book if the writing was good enough, but unfortunately this is not a book I can recommend to awisls.



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Book 24

09 June 2016

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross




Title: Pope Joan

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002BH5HO4   

Genre: Historical

Pages: 434     

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Highly recommended

It is still arguable whether there was a female Pope or no. I personally think there wasn’t. Donna Woolfolk Cross thinks otherwise. And she has written a long novel, which although a fiction, contains a lot of historical figures, such as Pope Sergius III, Roman Emperor Lothar I, Pope Leo IV, Pope Benedict III.

Here’s what you can find on Wikipedia about Pope Joan:

Pope Joan was, according to popular legend, a woman who reigned as pope for a few years during the Middle Ages. Her story first appeared in chronicles in the 13th century and subsequently spread throughout Europe. The story was widely believed for centuries, but most modern scholars regard it as fictional.

Most versions of her story describe her as a talented and learned woman who disguised herself as a man, often at the behest of a lover. In the most common accounts, due to her abilities, she rose through the church hierarchy and was eventually elected pope. Her sex was revealed when she gave birth during a procession, and she died shortly after, either through murder or natural causes. The accounts state that later church processions avoided this spot, and that the Vatican removed the female pope from its official lists and crafted a ritual to ensure that future popes were male. In the 16th century, Siena Cathedral featured a bust of Joan among other pontiffs; this was removed after protests in 1600.

I don’t think we will ever know if Pope Joan really existed or no, because even if there are documented proofs, they are probably in Vatican archives and will never be disclosed. Whether Pope Joan is real or a fraud, she’s still a popular subject in fiction, being a character in multiple plays and novels. Donna Woolfolk Cross is a professional and has done a great research. This is how a historical novel should be written, so if you’re planning to write one yourself, pick Pope Joan and read it slowly and attentively. Also, Donna’s writing is very good, which is another big plus. Sometimes Joan’s actions seemed anachronistic to me, considering the events of the book were taking place in 9th century. I understand that women like her who were ahead of their time changed the course of history and made the world a bit better, but still, her thinking was too modern and feministic for the dark ages. However, I still enjoyed the book, mostly because of the great research and professional writing.

My only problem with this novel is that it was too romantic. What can I do, I just hate love and sufferings in books.



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Book 23

09 June 2016

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield




Title: The Thirteenth Tale

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0068PHS5Q/

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Pages: 418     

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Highly recommended

 

This is a book that deserves attention if you want to enrich your language. As a textbook it’s one of the best. The language is rich, descriptive, vivid. As a fiction it was boring and too long.

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once home to the March family - fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, brutal, dangerous Charlie, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House hides a chilling secret which strikes at the very heart of each of them, tearing their lives apart...

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield's past - and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has Angelfield been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic writer Vida Winter? And what is the secret that strikes at the heart of Margaret's own, troubled life?

As Margaret digs deeper, two parallel stories unfold, and the tale she uncovers sheds a disturbing light on her own life...

My problems with the book started early on. The story is told from Margaret Lea’s point of view. I was just getting to know her when she receives a letter from England’s most famous writer, Vida Winter, who offers Margaret to become her first and only biography. The whole book is Vida Winter’s life, which she start telling before I managed to become interested in her. Thus, I had to read a very long life story of a character I didn’t care about. And it was long. Really long. With so many details that sometimes I was suffocating. As I said already, the prose was a gift for someone who’s learning English. It was outstanding, a real treasure for any awisl. Without using the same word twice, Miss Setterfield managed to write a 418-paged mystery. I swear she has used every single word in English language! There were no more synonyms and antonyms left in the Oxford Dictionary. She has used every known technique, every sentence structure, broken every rule. She has done a great job. I have never read a book wordier than “The Thirteenth Tale.”

But the plot… I never got into it. There was a mystery, and an interesting twist in the end, but because I never got a chance to care for Vida Winter, I also didn’t care for her family story. It seemed to have a bit of everything: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Bleak House. It seemed to me sometimes that Miss Setterfield had been trying to create something greater than what she ended up with in the end. Because despite the length of the book, the prose, the Gothic atmosphere, it lacks something to become a classic. The story was moving so slowly that the book seemed to be longer than any Dickens novel (which it was not). There were just a few characters, and I had to spend too much time with them while they went on with their chores, ate, drank, talked, engaged in incestuous relationships, slept, then woke up and repeated their daily routine over and over again, while somewhere in the background a little bit of mystery was going on. I will not spoil the book, but the main twist was so undramatic I couldn’t believe that was all.

There is a movie based on the book. I haven’t watched it yet, but I am planning to, just because I like to watch movie adaptations of the books I read. It’s always interesting to see how the director will present this or that scene, and how they will try to conceal the twist till the end. Some do it well, others not so much. If the movie is good, I will write a blog post about it. As for now, buy “The Thirteenth Tale” and read it slowly and with a pen and a notepad. I promise you will take a lot of notes.



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Book 22

23 May 2016

Coraline by Neil Gaiman




Title: Coraline

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Coraline-Neil-Gaiman-ebook/dp/B0037B6Q66

Genre: Children’s fantasy

Pages: 212

Status: Finished

Recommended for awisls: Every Gaiman book is good for awisls.

 

I like Neil Gaiman. I think every newbie author needs to read him. But I read his books not for pleasure, but for learning. Somehow I fall asleep every time I pick a Gaiman book just for pleasure. "American Gods" was a great sleeping pill, and Coraline was no different. It was an interesting fantasy, sometimes quite scary for a children’s book, but still I kept yawning and feeling sleepy.

The same happened while I was watching the animated movie. It was beautifully made, with some of the creepiest and stunning characters I had ever seen in a cartoon, but I still managed to fall asleep a few times. Maybe it’s just me; I have been feeling sleepy recently.

Just look at this! Marvelous!

All in all, Coraline is a well written book for kids, but the adults love it no less. I advise you to give it a try by all means. It will take you just an hour or two, but you will learn a lot from Neil Gaiman. He’s not called a genius for no reason. Gaiman is considered one of the best contemporary authors, with a calm, balanced prose and boundless imagination. We all can learn a lot from him.



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Book 21

20 November 2015

Desprite Measures by Deborah Jay




 

Title: Desprite Measures

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Desprite-Measures-Caledonian-Sprite-Book-ebook/dp/B00H6UKH5A

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Pages: 318

Status: Finished

This is a very well written book, but totally out of my reading preferences. I received the book from the author in exchange for an honest review, so I felt compelled to finish it. While I usually read a book in 3-4 days, it took me almost two months to finish Desprite Measures. What I liked about the book is that it was really well written. Probably one of the best written books of this year for me. Deborah’s prose is beautiful in its simplicity. She manages to deliver without using big words, and her characters are fleshed out, with their own, unique voices. The events took place in Scotland, and as I have a huge crush on Scotland and Ireland, that was a reason enough to keep reading.
What I didn’t like was the plot. I couldn’t get into it no matter how much I tried. There’s a reason that I keep away from romance. I just don’t like it. Cassie was a very likeable character, but her constant pining over Gloria very soon began to tire me. There were a lot of characters, but the only one I found interesting and tolerable was Cassie. The rest were mean, selfish, and ungrateful.
My other problem was the villain. I found him a weak antagonist, and our heroes got into his traps not because he was a mastermind, but because most of the time their actions and plans were not well-thought.
This is a beautifully written book, filled with Celtic mythology and eco ideas, and if you’re a fan of the genre, then by all means give it a try.



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Book 20

16 November 2015

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan




Title: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Summer-Turtleback-School-Library-Binding/dp/0606151575

Genre: Thriller, Mystery 

Pages: 200

Status: Finished

The movie I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER came out in 1997. It was bloody, gory, filled with violence, and had Freddie Prince Jr. Sarah Michelle Gellar, and other young stars of the time. A typical slasher movie that was followed with bad sequels. Lately I learned that Lois Duncan hated the movie, as it had very little to do with the book. Turns out there was no fisherman killing the teens, who had done something irrevocable during last summer. There was no blood in the book, and no gore. And no depth. It was very short and very seventies.
The author’s bio says she has penned more than 50 books, and is famous for her young adult suspense novels. Her books have been banned and awarded, and she’s one interesting person to follow. Today this story won’t impress anyone. There are thousands of new mysteries, thrillers, detective stories, each more complicated than the last one. But I can see why, thirty years ago, this kind of YA suspense novels would be of great interest. A remake of the movie is coming up soon, so the interest is still there. See what a good plot does? I think that original ideas never get old. Maybe Lois’s books aren’t those I’d recommend to authors writing in a second language, but her ideas are creative and become interesting books.
I Know What You Did Last Summer has been updated, which I found absolutely unnecessary. I don’t know why the author and the publisher would do that. Adding computers and cellphones won’t make the book more appealing to today’s reader. We still read the books from the seventies and sixties, and those written centuries ago.
I will continue to follow Lois on her social media and might check something else by her. I think new authors have a lot to learn from someone who’s been around for so many decades and still produces interesting stories.



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Book 19

16 November 2015

The Devils Grin (Kronberg Crimes) by Annelie Wendeberg




Title: The Devil’s Grin (Kronberg Crimes

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Devils-Grin-Kronberg-Crimes/dp/1481262262

Genre: Victorian thriller, Mystery 

Pages: 240

Status: Finished

First of all, Annelie Wenderberg is a fantastic writer. So this book is highly recommended to fellow awisls as an example of good writing. Annelie knows how to write well. Her pace is smooth, her vocabulary is solid, she knows how to structure sentences and paragraphs that do not bore the reader. Ms. Wenderberg is one of the best indie authors I have had the pleasure to read.

Now the book.
In Victorian London's cesspool of crime and disease, a series of murders remains undiscovered until a cholera victim is found floating in the city's drinking water supply. Dr Anton Kronberg, England's best bacteriologist, is called upon to investigate and finds evidence of abduction and medical maltreatment.

Dr. Anton is actually a woman in disguise. To know why she’s hiding her identity you’ll have to read the book. It was a good mystery, but I am giving it 3 stars, mainly because I didn’t care. I have read my share of Sherlock Holmes stories as a child, and I’m just not interested in him anymore. So anything that has to do with Mr. Holmes—new book, new movie, new series—does not capture my interest. 
If this was written by someone else I wouldn’t care to finish it, but I read The Devil’s Grin till the end because the writing was outstanding. My only complaint is the same one I made about Annelie’s other book: the F bomb. Such beautiful writing shouldn’t be spoiled with crass language. Especially when the story is set in the Victorian era.



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Book 18

16 November 2015

The Bank of the River by Michael Richan




Title: The Bank of the River

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Bank-River-Michael-Richan-ebook/dp/B00DC1RTCQ

Genre: Horror

Pages: 220

Status: Finished

I love reading horrors, and I am always looking for new authors. Really, how much more can I read Stephen King? I’m a firm believer that there are other authors who can come up with scary stuff. Sadly, The Bank of the River didn’t make an impression on me. I’ll keep searching for a good horror book. This one read like an episode of “Supernatural.” But instead of the two brothers we have a father and a son who are solving a mystery about a haunted house. It wasn’t scary, and it wasn’t gripping. Nor was it original. If you have a few hours to kill and have nothing else to read you could give this book a try. But if you want blood-curdling horror or a solid, atmospheric story, you’ll have to search somewhere else.
 



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Book 17

06 October 2015

Five Weeks in the Amazon: A backpackers journey: life in the rainforest, Ayahuasca, and a Peruvian shamans ancient diet by Sean Michael Hayes




 

Title: Five Weeks in the Amazon

Amazon Linkhttp://www.amazon.com/Five-Weeks-Amazon-backpackers-rainforest-ebook/dp/B00PM987W2

Genre: Memoir, Biography, Travel

Pages: 274

Status: Did Not Finish

I gave up at 48%. I honestly tried, and I hate not finishing a book, but I can’t read this book anymore.

Five Weeks in the Amazon” is tedious. It was supposed to be a story of self-discovery, but it’s a story about… I don’t even know, random things happening to the author. How he goes to sleep, how he wakes up, how he eats, walks down the streets, skates with strangers, chats with strangers. Everything aforementioned could be interesting when told well, but the author of “Five Weeks in the Amazon” is a weak storyteller. He’s not making his story gripping, he’s not telling me of an adventure in one of the most daunting and dangerous places in the world. He’s just talking and talking and talking non-stop about random, routine things from his present and past.

I was excited to receive this book from my friend and fellow blogger Leiah from So I Read This Book Today. She didn’t have the time to read and review “Five Weeks in the Amazon” and kindly lent it to me for a review. We both were sure this was going to be a great trip to Amazon, but alas, it wasn’t. I don’t understand why the author thinks I need to know about every single detail that happened to him on his way: that he woke up in someone else’s room in the hotel, that he took a taxi, that he met random people, that he read books. And most importantly, how many times and in what quantities he took drugs. If I knew the author was going to do drugs for the first 1/3 of the book, then take another type of a drug for the rest of his adventure, I wouldn’t touch this book with a ten foot pole. Just not my topic. Not a story I care about.

Drugs. Hanging out with random people. Drugs. Hanging out with other random people. Drugs. Going to a village somewhere near the Amazon. Meditating about life. Experimenting with Ayahuasca. I can’t take this anymore. I understand that his journey is important to him, but I also think that a book, when published and made available to the public, should follow some of the basic rules of storytelling.

I am a firm believer that every story has a potential and the right to be told. “Five Weeks in the Amazon” isn’t bad per-se; if done right this might have been an exciting read. The author does have a story and an experience to share. But in its current state this book is unreadable. And I’m not even talking about the typos and grammatical errors. There were so many errors I wished to get my hands on the Word Document and proofread it. Publishing a book riddled with grammatical mistakes is disrespectful. I don’t know if the author did the editing himself or had a bad editor, but he should have gone through the book once more before clicking the “publish” button. Kindle has a text-to-speech option, which is really helpful for catching well-hidden typos.

I really wanted to like this book. I was ready to love it! Depression is not an unfamiliar word to me; I know how it feels and what it turns you into. I invested a lot of time in this book, but life is short. No one said that writing a book was easy. Kudos for trying.



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Book 16

06 October 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins




 

Title: The Girl on the Train

Amazon Linkhttp://www.amazon.com/Girl-Train-Novel-Paula-Hawkins-ebook/dp/B00L9B7IKE

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Pages: 326

Status: Finished

I hate it when this happens. I hate it when I guess the bad guy’s identity halfway through the book. But then, there were only 6 characters here, 3 women and 3 men, and it wasn’t hard to see that 2+2 is 4.

The Girl on the Train is the most popular novel at the moment. If you ask me, I think it’s overrated, but then, anything today is overrated. However, this book did exactly what it was supposed to do: it entertained me. There are books on my Kindle I have been reading for weeks and still haven’t reached the half. This book is 326 pages, and I read it in 1.5 days. Not because it was the best story written in the last decades. The Girl on the Train was easy to read. Sometimes it became monotone, sometimes it dragged too much, but overall it managed to keep my interest, mostly because I wanted to be sure I’d made the right guess regarding the baddie.

While I was reading, I couldn’t stop thinking about what an amazing plot twist must await me by the end. So many people praised this book for the twist and the mystery and the suspense. But the ending was a lot like a Hollywood thriller. The whole book was like a Hollywood thriller: building up the tension, slowly, sometimes very slowly, then BAM! A short confrontation, a bit of a cliché, and voila, the end.

I agree with other readers that there was a lot of filler. 100 pages could be easily edited out and the book wouldn’t lose anything. I also notice that many readers didn’t sympathize with any of the characters, but in my case, I did like Rachel. OK, I didn’t really like her, but I was interested in her story. God, she was so pathetic. Such a low-life. And I genuinely wondered how she would end up. I admit to having felt as desperate as her at some points of my life, but thankfully I haven’t reached such lows (maybe somewhere in the future LOL). She was hopeless. Every time she reached out for another bottle, I groaned. I can’t say I was rooting for her and wanting her to brace herself and start over. I was just interested in her life and her future. I did wanted to know what would be the end of someone like her.

The other two women interested me less. In fact, I really disliked Anna. She was supposed to be happier than Rachel, but she was even more pathetic. At least Rachel was a drunkard, which explains her stupid actions. Anna was just neurotic.

And Megan was the least interesting. She was the “gone girl” but I couldn’t care less. The whole story is built around her disappearance, and I didn’t care about her. A bit strange, I have to admit. I think I was more interested in alcoholic Rachel’s story, than in Megan’s whereabouts.

I advise newbie authors to take a look at this book. This is a great example that you can do well without a purple prose, that you don't need to tell about every character's hair and eye color, that you don't have to describe every item in the room to write an enaging story. It doesn't mean that you have to copy this author's writing style, but rather that you can omit a lot of unnecessary stuff and get to the story sooner.

Many compare this to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I wasn’t crazy about Gone Girl either. I have read all 3 books by GF, and the GG is my least favorite. So it’s no wonder that I wasn’t smitten away by The Girl on the Train. I kept rubbing my hands in anticipation, wondering what kind of fantastic, uber-unexpected, unheard of twist I was going to read. And then… meh!

I guess I should keep my expectations low. Just to avoid disappointment.



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Book 15

05 October 2015

Mo(u)rning Joy by Kalan Chapman Lloyd




 

Title: Mo(u)rning Joy

Amazon Linkhttp://www.amazon.com/rning-Joy-Kalan-Chapman-Lloyd-ebook/dp/B015D3X5FK

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction

I received this book for a review at the beginning of September. It’s October already, and I still haven’t reviewed it. For a long time I didn’t know what to write in my review. It was a topic I hadn’t ever encountered, a story I had never heard in such details. Every time I sat in front of my PC and got ready to write down a review, nothing came. I stared at the blank page and postponed the review for another day. Until I began forgetting the story.

And still, Kalan’s story is not easy to forget. Because it is about a boy who was and was not. A story of a boy who came into this world through agonizing pain and suffering. A boy who never got the chance to see a bit of this world, which is so crazy and so wrong, but which is so beautiful and so exceptional.

I think I know now why I couldn’t review this book. I was scared of writing something that might have hurt the author. She had suffered and she had learned to live with her pain. What if I wrote something without even realizing I was causing pain? It stopped me from writing a review for almost a month.

Mo(u)rning Joy is the story of parents looking forward to the birth of their first child. But the child was never born. There was lot of pain, physical and mental. There was a lot of anger. So much that sometimes I had to stop reading. It was too much for me. I have never been pregnant, I don’t know how I would react if anything like that happened to me. Knowing that your child has died inside you and having to wait for another day, then going through endless pain that doesn’t come to an end. Would I be as angry with people around me? People who had nothing to do with my pain? Would I take every word of comfort with so much hostility? I don’t know. And I am not going to judge.

I’m an atheist; I don’t believe in gods, prayers, and heaven. I don’t know if there is afterlife, or if there has been a “beforelife”; I admit I don’t always understand religious people. Or maybe I never understand them, their obsession with prayers and their Gods. So maybe I am not the best person to review a book written by a religious person. Maybe that was another reason I couldn’t review this book for such a long time. Even now, when I think about it, I’m not sure how I feel. There are so many mixed feelings, so many abrupt thoughts lurking in my head. And I can’t hold onto them, I am still thinking. I guess if a book makes you think after a month, it doesn’t matter if you liked it or not. It means that it gave you something. Call it a knowledge. Or an experience.

And while I have managed to forget some of the details of this story, I remember the boy. His name is Caswell. And this is his story.



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Book 14

02 October 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir




Title: The Martian

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Martian-Andy-Weir-ebook/dp/B00FAXJHCY

Genre: Sci-fi

I love Sci-fi. Both to read and to watch. I love the oldies: Yefremov, Azimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Clarke…

I haven’t had much luck with contemporary Sci-fi, but what I can’t find in today’s books I find in today’s movies. I love anything science fiction, if it doesn’t insult my intelligence. And we know that Hollywood is prone to doing it often, especially when it tries to blend Sci-fi and YA. Oh Jeez.

Interstellar was long and I won’t probably ever watch it again, but I liked it, because it was a travel into the distance, into the space which we don’t know, but which is there, as real as our own planet. A travel that long is fascinating as well as blood-curdling. Now when I think of it, I’ve watched Sci-fi blockbusters, Sci-fi B movies, flops and critics’ favorites, and although some of those movies weren’t masterpieces, they all have given me the same thing: a feeling of being in space, away from home and facing the unknown.

The moment I learned about The Martian coming to the big screen I knew I was going to read that book. An astronaut stranded on Mars trying to survive. What could be more interesting? I love one-character and one-location movies. And it seemed that most of the readers loved this one. Considering that Sci-fi is neither YA nor Romance, I was a firm believer that it couldn’t pull out a “Kardashian:” creating something uber-popular but highly unworthy of its popularity. While I won’t go so far as to say that The Martian is unworthy of its popularity, I’ll say that for me it was a loss of three days.

I am not going to comment on the few scientific inaccuracies, because smarter people have done it already. Many say that reading requires suspending disbelief, and I say yes, it does, when you’re reading Fantasy. But when I pick up Sci-fi, even if it has aliens invading the world, or aliens invading a spaceship, I don’t want to neglect the laws of physics. But as I already said I will bypass the scientific goofs, because that’s not the reason I didn’t like this book.

I didn’t like The Martian, because it was badly written. I haven’t checked the author yet, so I don’t know how old he is, or what’s his writing background, but I can say with all responsibility that his editors failed him a big time. The book would greatly benefit from a rewrite, a copy editing, and a dialogue improvement. The dialogues were weak. So bad they pained me. Why the editors didn't get rid of all the "he said, she said" is beyond me. The characters were lacking personalities, including the hero of the book.

Judging from the blurb, I thought this was going to be a one-character survival story, but sadly it wasn’t. I lost interest the moment I went to NASA and met a group of boring characters. Another group of dull characters was waiting for me on the spaceship. After the 30% point I had to force myself to keep reading. After the 60% point I nearly stopped. The pace was really slow. It was crawling across the pages. The plot was the same thing over and over again, during the whole 400+ sols. So much that there came a time when I stopped caring. I knew he'd now find another solution to his seemingly insoluble problem, preceding it with yet another “Yay!

But the weakest point was Mars. I never felt I was on Mars with Mark Watney. I was with Mark Watney, somewhere, doing things to stay alive. But was I on Mars? Was I on a spaceship? Was I in NASA headquarters? I was always in my room on the Earth. I didn’t travel to space the way I had traveled before, reading Heinlein and Yefremov. Moreover, I didn’t feel that Watney spent 1.5 Earth years on Mars. As Watney admits himself, “My terrifying struggle to stay alive became somehow routine. Get up in the morning, eat breakfast, tend my crops, fix broken stuff, eat lunch, answer e-mail, watch TV, eat dinner, go to bed.

That’s true, this book was routine. Mark Watney has to be the dullest character I have encountered in literature. His situation is blood-chilling, but his emotions are as dead as the Red Planet itself. He is boring, he is tedious, his humor is stupid, his vocabulary is as lacking as his food supplies. There came a moment I began to think his comrades had deliberately left him on Mars, fed up by his smart-ass, cringeworthy jokes.

Sci-fi stands for Science Fiction. There was science in this book, but the fiction was dead. I can’t stop thinking about how this book would end up in the hands of an acclaimed author. It would be fantastic. The scientific details were interesting (omitting a few), especially for someone who loves physics and chemistry, but I wanted more personality. More psychological struggle. More devastation. How would a real person behave in this situation? They would nearly lose their minds. The only complaint from Watney was the disco music. Oh, and the potatoes.

The Martian lacked heart. Even that last paragraph didn’t save it.



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Book 13

28 September 2015

Before The Clock Strikes: A Kyle Simmons Thriller by E.G. Michaels




Title: Before The Clock Strikes: A Kyle Simmons Thriller

Amazon Linkhttp://www.amazon.com/Before-Clock-Strikes-Simmons-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00NTN7M4C

Genre: Mystery, thriller, police procedurals

I finished this book last night and can’t really remember what it was about. Is it my ADD again? No, not this time. It’s just that I absolutely did not care what was going on in this book. It reminded me an episode of a cop drama series. There was not a single character that held my interest. But it was my fault. I should have DNF’ed this book the moment I realized this was not right for me.

From the blurb: Detective Simmons races against the clock to quickly find the proof to solve both cases before all hell breaks loose. E.G. Michaels delivers a debut action-packed thriller with white-knuckle twists, unexpected humor, and leaves you wanting even more. 

I am really sorry for saying this, but this was not an action-packed thriller with white-knuckle twists. Not at all. There was a drive-by shooting in a black neighborhood, there was a detective that resembled many other detectives from similar books and movies, there were the thugs, another murder, and a couple of shootings. As I already said this was like a 40 minute cop drama episode, but boy, did it take me a while to finish it. Normally I read 100 pages in less than a day. But this one took me longer. I hate it when it’s a chore to finish a book. And as I said already this was totally my fault. I hate leaving books unfinished, but I need to be doing that more often. Because there are so many books out there it’s not fair to waste time on something that’s totally out of my reading preferences.

And the writing wasn’t very good. Again, abrupt POV switches with a short passage showing us the protagonist, followed by another short passage showing us the protagonist, then back and forth, like a movie. Authors need to remember that a book is not a movie and not a script. It’s a book and should be written like a book.

The He said, she said problem was also there. Authors, when there are two people talking there’s no need to tell us who is speaking. It breaks the flow of the story.

Overall, a very disappointing read.



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Book 12

26 September 2015

This Doesnt Happen In The Movies: A Reed Ferguson Mystery (A Private Investigator Mystery Series - Crime Suspense Thriller Book 1) by Renee Pawlish




Title: This Doesn't Happen In the Movies: A Reed Ferguson Mystery

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/This-Doesnt-Happen-The-Movies-ebook/dp/B005DJHWRW

Genre: Mystery, thriller, suspense

Picked this up because it was free and because I love detective stories. I am beginning to think I need to give myself a break from indie books. This has been a disappointing week. While This Doesn't Happen In the Movies started well, reminding me of old-school detective stories, it quickly went downhill. According to Amazon the book is 227 pages, but it seemed an eternity before I finished it.

The plot: Reed Ferguson’s first case is a daring adventure, complete with a dose of film noir, and a lot of humor. With a great supporting cast of the Goofball Brothers, Reed’s not too bright neighbors, and Cal, Reed’s computer geek friend, This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies is detective noir at its best. Follow Reed as he solves crime akin to his cinematic hero, Humphrey Bogart.

The writing: It started really well. No typos, no misused words. Smooth and edited. But by the 70% mark it seemed that the author got tired of her own book. The story began dragging and bumping all over the place. The pace was gone, the characters did stupid things, the plot became tiresome. I lost interest and couldn't wait to reach the end. And it's never good when I begin to root for the bad guys and dislike the protagonist. That’s what happened with This Doesn't Happen In the Movies, which is a shame, because I’ve downloaded Book 7 of this series (which was free as well), and when a book reaches my Kindle, I hate deleting it without giving it a try.
Well, maybe sometime in the future…



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Book 11

26 September 2015

Pure Evil by Jesse Bastide




Title: Pure Evil

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NGJ8SCY

Genre: Supernatural, horror, thriller

I am a huge horror fan. The moment I see a free horror book on Amazon, it is doomed to appear on my Kindle. Sadly, this book was another disappointment of the week.

The plot: What starts as an episode of playground teasing, ends when Devon gets a rock to the skull. He falls into a coma, only waking up after a close brush with death. But now that Devon is back, he finds out that he’s not alone. There’s a mysterious entity talking to him in his head. And Devon’s not sure if he likes the new imaginary friend.

From the first pages it’s obvious that the author is a huge Stephen King fan. Most of us are, anyways, but this was just too much King-is-my-idol-I'll-try-to-be-like-him. Surely not only S. King’s stories can take place in Maine, not only his protagonists can be writers, not only he has the right to write about demons/inner voices/aliens (who reminded me a lot of Pennywise the Clown from King's "It"). But it was so obvious it made me treat this book as a King fanfiction. Maybe if it were written better, if it were edited better, if the author didn’t use one of the protagonists’ name instead of the other I would take this book seriously. It needed a thorough editing. And an idea of what exactly it wanted to be. There were plot points that never went anywhere, like the boy turning copper into silver. Surely there might be a sequel, but some things need a closure or some kind of explanation. The characters weren’t well developed. There were meaningless details that again went nowhere. There was the POVs problem as well.
This is one of those indie books that can be ripped apart by harsh critics and bloggers, but this website is not the place for that. I think the readers will enjoy this book if they know what exactly they are getting: a not very long and a bit simplistic horror story. There are definitely readers out there who might be looking for something like this.



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Book 10

26 September 2015

Hopebreaker: A Steampunk Dystopian Fantasy (The Great Iron War, Book 1) by Dean F. Wilson




Title: Hopebreaker: A Steampunk Dystopian Fantasy (The Great Iron War, Book 1)

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Hopebreaker-Steampunk-Dystopian-Fantasy-Great-ebook/dp/B00QO2FQ52

Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Dystopian, Steampunk

I received this book from a fellow blogger and friend Leiah from SoIReadThisBookToday. She’s so overwhelmed with review requests she kindly lends me indie books to review them.

Sadly, I’m not having much luck with steampunk, even though I am greatly interested in the genre. I had high hopes with this book and I would in no way call the Hopebreaker a bad book, but it was just not engaging enough.

The plot: In the world of Altadas, there are no more human births. The Regime is replacing the unborn with demons, while the Resistance is trying to destroy a drug called Hope that the demons need to survive.
Between these two warring factions lies Jacob, a man who profits from smuggling contraceptive amulets into the city of Blackout. He cares little about the Great Iron War, but a chance capture, and an even more accidental rescue, embroils him in a plot to starve the Regime from power.

My first problem was the protagonist. Jacob was neither interesting nor exciting. He was bland. The blurb tells us that Jacob isn’t interested in the Great Iron War, but it seemed as if Jacob wasn’t interested being the protagonist of this book.
Another problem was the lack of a backstory. I didn’t always understand what the characters were talking about. They all had stories, but I didn’t know them, and never got to know them, which made it hard for me to relate to them. Characters appeared from Jacob’s past, and again I felt left out, because they shared stories, they exchanged memories, but I knew nothing of it and never found out.
And my third problem was the plot that moved very slowly. Or maybe this just wasn’t the right book for me. It seemed to be the same thing over and over again: Jacob got caught, Jacob miraculously survived and ended up with the good guys again. And again. And again.

The writing: While not badly written, this book is not the one I’d recommend to fellow awisls. I think it would greatly benefit from a second copy-editing. Not bad for a first book by an indie author, but not something that will stay with me as an example of descriptive language or strong structuring and plotting. There was the same old problem with the POVs, as well as with repetitive phrasing. Also, there were too many similes and metaphors. In my humble opinion, steampunk is a cool genre, which demands more time and work.



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Book 9

07 September 2015

Crime Scene - CSI Reilly Steel Prequel by Casey Hill




Title: Crime Scene - CSI Reilly Steel Prequel

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Crime-Scene-Prequel-Forensic-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00M1SNQO6/

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

I love mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and anything else from the family of blood and murder. But this book never grew on me. I don’t think it was the book’s fault. Before picking up this short (120 pages) prequel to CSI Reilly Steel series I should have checked the first couple of books. It might have helped me to get to know Reilly and her demons, letting me care for her. I want to discourage anyone from picking up Crime Scene as the first book in the series. Because as a first book it was weak. I loved the idea of FBI recruits training in a staged town, just like Mindhunters (which I didn’t really like, but the idea was great). I liked the simulations and virtual reality battles. But the main mystery wasn’t engaging enough.

Minor Spoilers:

This is a personal thing, but I prefer the kind of mysteries where the guilty party is among the characters, not behind the scenes. This kind of premise works with serial killers and killers on the loose, but from Crime Scene I was expecting I-would-never-suspect-this-person type of outcome.

End of Spoilers.

What I didn’t like (and it had nothing to do with Crime Scene being a prequel) was the point of view. I’d prefer a 1st person or 3rd person limited POV. I liked following Reilly and wanted to stay with her while she solved the murder instead of visiting other characters’ minds. They were not engaging.

Also there were grammatical errors. I wouldn’t say the book was riddled with mistakes, but I did spot a few.



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Book 8

07 September 2015

Murder, Lies and Chocolate (Death by Chocolate Book 2) by Sally Berneathy




Title: Murder, Lies and Chocolate (Death by Chocolate  Book 2) 

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Lies-Chocolate-Death-Book-ebook/dp/B008QPW5J0/

Genre: Mystery, Cozy

This was the 2nd book in the Death by Chocolate series, but stands on its own and doesn’t require you to read the first to understand who’s who. It also spoils the first book (naming the baddy multiple times), so if you plan to read the whole series, it’s logical to start from the beginning. While I liked this book enough to finish it, I won’t be checking out the sequels. The plot reminded me of so many other cozy mysteries I thought I had been reading the same author the whole last week. Lindsay is a baker, she’s dating the local detective, she has two friends/loyal sidekicks, a murder happens in her chocolate store… Does it sound familiar? It seems to be the plot of so many cozy mysteries recently. Although I wouldn’t call this one cozy. To me cozy is light on the violent side. There was multiple stabbing here, a person burnt down in a fire… I won’t be posting major spoilers, but I want to mention a minor one: the thing I disliked the most about Murder, Lies and Chocolate was that the murderer was behind the scenes all the time. It wasn’t a book where you suspect every major and minor character and then exclaim “I knew it!” Or whisper “I’d never suspect that one.” The characters analyzed the whole book and in the end came to the right conclusion.

What I liked was the writing. It was pretty well done. Much better than anything I have read these last few days. There were some funny parts and situations, but not as many as I’d like them to be. Lindsay’s friend Fred was cool, little Zach was cute, Henry the Cat was funny. Of all the characters Lindsay was the least interesting one. And she relied on her cat to save her life way too many times.

A bonus: chocolate recipes from Lindsay’s bakery at the end of the book. Too bad the ingredients that the Americans use are nowhere to be found here.



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Book 7

07 September 2015

Game of Thrones (again)




I did it!  I finished The Song of Ice and Fire. All 5 books. Nearly 5000 pages. I’ve never read a series so long. A few years ago I purchased Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (11 paperbacks, thick and heavy), and up to this day I’ve read only the first book. Because I just can’t get into it. I’m not really in love with Game of Thrones either, but then why did I read it all?

Because Martin is a genius. I’ve lost the count of how many times I’ve said this already, but I’ll say it again and again: George RR Martin is the best living author in the whole wide world.

No one writes like him. How can a prose be so perfect? Is it because it takes him several years to write one book? Does he write and rewrite every single sentence to make them so perfect? Where does he get all these words from? Probably from a dictionary :))) I won’t ask how he keeps the track of so many characters, because it’s not really hard. When the characters are born in your head, somehow you always remember where they came from and what they want. But he does have a great amount of characters. And I am so tired of following the Stark kids that are scattered all across Westeros and beyond the narrow sea. I’m also fed up with that Targaryen dragon queen and her immense silliness. All the blood, gore, and rape have exhausted my mind. But guess what? When the 6th book comes out, I’m going to read it. Because that’s the best textbook an AWISL like me can ask for. Martin teaches you everything: structure, plotting, vocabulary… And he asks less than $10 for every book.

Some of the new words I learned from the last book, A Dance with Dragons: grapnel, paean, addlepated, pander, catamite, falchion, eschew, foment, morass, vainglorious.

And the most memorable quotes from the last book:

“It is never wise for a ruler to eschew the trappings of power, for power itself flows in no small measure from such trappings.”

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

“Men live their lives trapped in an eternal present, between the mists of memory and the sea of shadow that is all we know of the days to come.”

“So long as men remember the wrongs done to their forebears, no peace will ever last.”



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Book 6

05 September 2015

Nefertitis Heart (The Artifact Hunters Book 1) by A. W. Exley




Title: Nefertiti's Heart (The Artifact Hunters Book 1) 

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Nefertitis-Heart-Artifact-Hunters-Book-ebook/dp/B0139OZJYK/

Genre: Steampunk, Historical

I was so excited to start this book. As soon as I saw the title I thought, “That's it! At last!" Being crazy about Ancient Egypt and all kinds of mysteries, I’ve been dreaming of an Indiana Jones type of story for a very, very long time. An Egyptian artifact, Victorian setting, elements of steampunk! What could be better? I so wanted to read this I had to decline a few books from other authors, just so that I would have the time to start and finish Nefertiti’s Heart without a distraction.

Alas, by the end of Chapter Six I had to abandon this book. What started as a fun archeology story quickly turned into a hot-dangerous-alpha-male romance. It's chapter 4 and the heroine is invited to the house of a dangerous man, where for some reason she has to take a bath (oh dear). The moment the man described as ruthless stirred our heroine’s insides I knew this wasn’t my type of book. Why are the murderers so often glorified? I suppose later we might find out Nathaniel wasn’t that bad, but he himself admits to killing people. Killing people is not hot, even if those were bad people. It’s neither cool nor sexy. This is my opinion. Someone might think it’s just a book and be OK with it. I’m not one of them. That’s why I am giving this book 2 stars, which, according to Amazon, means that I don’t like it.

I will often finish a book I don’t like if the writing is good, but I didn’t find this book particularly well written. There were too many sentences following each other starting with “She”: she did, she saw, she went, she heard…

This wasn’t really steampunk, and the language was miles away from that of Victorian era. It killed the mood. I couldn’t feel myself in London during the 1800’s. I had to double check to be sure this was really set in the 1861.
Such a pity.



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Book 5

05 September 2015

1/2986 by Annelie Wendeberg




Title: 1/2986

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/1-2986-Annelie-Wendeberg-ebook/dp/B00NS53SX0

Genre: Sci-fi, Dystopian

I finished this book 10 minutes ago and I want to write a review ASAP, while the memories are still vivid. But I don’t know where to start from. Usually I start with the plot, then discuss the writing. With this book I’ll go with the writing first. It was good. Just how I love it. Not a single unnecessary word. Not a sentence too long or too short. Perfect writing: smooth, even, balanced. No purple prose, no awkward dialogues, no big words. Just what the genre demands. And what the reader expects.

The story though… I liked it. But my problem was that I didn’t like it enough to get the sequels. At the 30% point I didn’t want to read it anymore. Because nothing was really happening. It was a huge, long set up for the upcoming stories. Mickaela is a 15-year-old girl living in a post-apocalyptic world, where you are either depressed, or starve, or freeze. Now add unloving, harsh, and uncaring parents, a brother for whose death you’re blamed, neighbors who don’t notice you, and you have a clear picture of what her life feels like. Oh, and she’s a cutter. When you live a life of despair and suppressed anger, you can’t help it, you turn into a freak. Micka is a likeable character, mature, though disconnected and suicidal. I liked her, how she acted, how she thought, how she chose to move on. But her story was dragging. First person narrative, so she goes on and on and on and on…

What I hated was the crude language. It’s beyond me why the author would spoil such top-notch writing with occasional F-bombs and other rubbish. I know this book is not YA, but do we need to use ***k and ***t to be taken seriously?

As I stated above, I didn’t like the story enough to get the sequel. But I liked the way this author writes, so I downloaded another book by her, The Devil's Grin (Kronberg Crimes Series Book 1), which is free at the moment. It’s been a while I’ve been looking for a Victorian suspense, and something tells me I might love this one

Title

Title: Key Lime Die: A Key West Culinary Cozy Book 2

Amazon link:

- See more at: http://authorswritinginasecondlanguage.com/?p=book_reviews#sthash.veNu47Nw.dpuf



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Book 4

01 September 2015

Key Lime Die: A Key West Culinary Cozy by Summer Prescott




Title: Key Lime Die: A Key West Culinary Cozy Book 2

Amazon linkhttp://www.amazon.com/Key-Lime-Die-West-Culinary-ebook/dp/B013II8PG6/  

I had really missed reading a short, cozy mystery, and when my friend Leiah from So I Read This Book Today lent me Key Lime Die, I couldn’t be happier. It was supposed to be one of those fun, quick reads about who-done-it in a small town, with 5-6 characters, each of them having the motive to be the killer.

Alas, not this time.

The story

Marilyn runs a small bakery whose existence is threatened when a competitor begins to sell key lime pies. Marilyn has spent a great amount of time to make her recipe of key lime pie perfect, but the competitor's pie strangely tastes just like hers. As if it's not enough, the competitor leaves nasty reviews about her bakery over the Internet (It reminded me of the phony Amazon reviews (both positive and negative), and for a page or two I could relate to Marilyn).

Her business is under threat; she's losing customers as well as her common sense. Maybe that's why, when she receives an order of 75 pies, she doesn't see it's a set up. That part made me cringe, because it was so, so obvious. And why on Earth didn't she ask for an advance?

Marilyn goes berserk and does things that made me cringe more, like going to the competitor's bakery and making a total fool of herself.

Then a murder happens, and of course she’s the main suspect. Even though her freedom is hanging on a hair, Marilyn somehow finds the time to swoon over the hot detective (I have to roll my eyes again).

In 4-5 pages everything is quickly resolved and the book ends. Considering the spaces after every paragraph, this wasn’t really 200 pages as stated in the description. More like 100 pages.

There wasn’t really a mystery, because we never get to know the suspects. Marilyn miraculously understands everything and solves the murder in an hour. When I hear cozy, I don’t think quick and uninspired. I think of Agatha Christie’s books, mostly those with Miss Marple. Where are they?

Also, there was a myriad of missing commas and punctuations errors. I wished to grab a Word Doc of the book and put all the commas in their places. I can't allow myself an editor at the moment, and I understand that other authors might have the same problem, but all the missing commas would be noticed if the author put her manuscript away for 2 days, then came back to it.

The only good thing this book did to me was reminding me about the cheesecake I was supposed to make.

 

The writing

Because this is a place that offers writing tips, I’d like to analyze the writing and mention what I personally didn't like and would have changed in a separate post. I don’t want to sound mean or rude in my reviews, but this book is such a great example of what not to do, that I can’t help going a bit deeper into it.

You can read my separate post HERE.



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Book 3

23 July 2015

Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich




Another lesson I need to learn: do not trust the best-seller lists. If someone is a best-selling author, it means absolutely nothing. I know I'll be learning English all my life, and there's no better way than reading acclaimed authors, who are famous for their writing skills and vocabulary. So, when I saw that best-selling author Janet Evanovich's book was on sale for just $1.99, I thought I couldn't lose an opportunity to learn from her. She has so many bestsellers, she has to be great, right?

Right?

Title: Wicked Business

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Wicked-Business-Lizzy-Diesel-Lizzie-ebook/dp/B0061C1N5W

This book was painful. So painful I had to force myself to keep reading. Do it, I told myself. Even if you don't like the plot, just keep reading it as a textbook. But that was hard. I have long stopped enjoying Stephen King novels, but I still read them as textbooks. But reading Wicked Business wasn't giving me anything. I wasn't learning anything, I wasn't becoming better, wasn't writing down new words into my notepad, wasn't stumbling upon great sentences. This book only wasted my precious time. Letting it abuse my mind, I reached the 50% point and knew I couldn't keep going. Nothing was happening. There were just some random characters talking, sleeping, eating, cooking, talking, walking, eating, shopping. I swear I'm not exaggerating. I know this was the second book in the series, but it's not like something was happening there, and I couldn't understand what because I hadn't read the first one. Absolutely nothing was happening in this book apart from talking, sleeping, eating, and talking again. But how is this even possible? How could this book become a best-seller?    

 

There was a cat named Cat. There was a monkey named Carl. Sometimes they hissed and leered at each other. There were some women doing something. Yes, doing something. There was a Lizzy, who couldn't decide if she had to sleep with a guy named Wulf or a guy named Diesel. They discussed it a lot. They went to places, they talked, they ate, they went to places. At 50% point I knew I couldn't keep reading. Life was flowing out of me. I can't remember ever doing this, but I skipped. Yes, I skipped. I thought I'd just read the last two chapters to see if anything exciting was going to happen. And you know what? I skipped those last chapters, too!

By the end, there was a very lame action scene, some fire, and some more lame action that happened while our protagonist was unconscious and we saw nothing of that. I honestly think it was for the better. Reading Wicked Business, I felt like Miss Evanovich had a deadline, had to give a book to her publisher, so she patched up some words and sentences, and thought she had a book to publish and sell. I don't know how this book is a best-seller, along with other books by this author, but I know I will never in my life touch another Janet Evanovich book. Not even if my life depends on it. Just no.



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Book 2

23 July 2015

Silent Scream by Angela Marsons




I have to admit I’ve been fooled. Fooled by Amazon reviews. I have long stopped paying attention to reviews, because you never know if they are genuine or not, but this time I stumbled upon a book in the mystery section, which had more than 1000 positive reviews, and very few negative ones. And I thought it had to be something special. One click, and it smoothly appeared on my kindle. And after the first few chapters I had to force myself to keep reading. Sadly, I’m one of those readers who always have to finish the book. And then, I was genuinely curious why that book was so highly rated. It was a huge compilation of clichés and overused themes.

Title: Silent Scream

Amazon link: www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00S5K0CAU 

The plot: the story begins with a woman's murder. A few seconds before she's killed she looks the murderer in the eyes (the murderer was wearing a mask) and recognizes her killer. Before I go on, let me say that when the murderer's identity is revealed I couldn't understand how that first victim recognized her killer. It was totally unbelievable. Investigation begins and we meet the protagonist, Detective Kim. A plain, unlikable character. But I’ll talk of the characters later. Then another murder happens. And then another. And slowly, that chain of murders goes into the past (10 years), to the night when something insidious happened at a girls' orphanage. A lot of minor inconsistencies bugged me, but there's one I want to mention. Bodies of murdered girls are discovered around the burnt orphanage. Somewhere in the book we learn that one of the murdered teen girls was pregnant. 20-25 weeks. Well, that's at least five months, right? Then, during the investigation it is revealed that no one knew she was pregnant. Let me ask how? How can you not see that a 15-year-old skinny girl is pregnant?  

The characters: too many, all of them underdeveloped. Blurred. Sometimes I couldn't tell one from the other. None had a distinctive voice, none had a character. The protagonist was a beggar. Throughout the book she was begging for my sympathy. She had had a tough childhood, she had a psychotic mother, she had been living in foster homes. I’ve met a lot of characters with hard lives, but this one was begging me to feel sorry for her. And it made me feel less sorry, because her pain was artificial, meant to squeeze emotions out of me. You don’t force a reader to feel something. You tell the story and let the reader relate to the character. The murders were supposed to be gruesome, and well, they were, but I was constantly told about it. How crazy the killer was, what a bastard, what a psychopath... So much that when the next body was discovered I already knew I would now be once again told how crazy the killer was. But he was a lame antagonist. The chapters with his inner monologue were boring and cliché-driven. When the identity of the murderer was revealed, I couldn't care less. I was totally unimpressed. The first thing I thought was, "Yeah, and so what?" The antagonist should leave at least a bit of impact on the reader. But not this time.

The writing: amateur. Sometimes it read like a 2nd draft. Kim always felt everything with her gut, constantly nodded her agreement and nodded her thanks. Everything was galvanized. There was too much telling instead of showing. Throwing in some medical details and phrases to seem smart.

The POV: third person unlimited. It means that we don't just follow the protagonist (the detective) while she's solving the murders; we also see what every other secondary character does or thinks, and those chapters are very short, like movie scenes. This is a personal thing, but I don't like such short chapters that try to disclose why this or that secondary character did or said certain things. To me masterful storytelling is letting the reader see everything through the eyes of the protagonist while she’s discovering it all.

The narration: I’m still thinking about how to explain my thoughts and feelings on this. The narration was biased, one-sided. When the book is told from the 3rd person point of view I expect it to spare me the narrator's principles and views. Not here. I can understand the character's inner monologue, but I don't need the narrator to tell me who's evil and who's not. I don't need the narrator to tell me if the murder victims deserved death or not. I can decide it myself, if the narrator gives me enough backstory. There was a disabled girl in the story, and I lost the count of how many times the narrator told me that she was strong, that she was a fighter, that she was courageous. I hate being told of things. The few scenes with the girl were enough to show her courage, it didn't have to be shoved down my throat that she was disabled, but hadn't lost her vigor. I think the book was written in the 1st person POV, but the author had to change it later, to include the scenes with other characters' POVs. It would explain a lot.

And the clichés! A detective with a harsh past. Her loyal sidekicks (made of carbon). People connected by a shady past dying one after the other.

SPOILERS BELOW  

 

Two killers acting apart. A character who, 60 seconds before dying, turns into a religious fanatic and begins mentioning God as his sidekick. OK, he was a priest, but that dialogue was so out of nowhere. It was like the author thought what else she could include in the book, then said, "Hey, what if he's not just a psycho, but also a religious fanatic!"

END OF SPOILERS

 

Also, there were missing words and commas, requiring me to read the sentences again to understand what they meant. Overall, I’m not impressed with this book. It bored me to tears and made me roll my eyes not once. The twist wasn't bad, but I've already seen that same twist many times in Hollywood movies; it was just OK. And I wouldn't write so much if it wasn't so highly rated. Maybe it's me? If you look at my Goodreads page you'll see that I haven't been happy with my recent picks. Maybe it's just a black bar in my life, when I don't like anything I read? I have to admit I learned writing in English reading authors like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and George Martin. Few authors write like them. So maybe my expectations are always high?

It's hard to criticize a book when you're an author, too. There’s always the fear of being called a bad sport, being accused of envy. But I don't want to be a hypocrite and praise every book I read just because I’m a writer, too. While I won't post negative reviews for the books by newbie authors, I don't think that my negative review will harm a successful, established writer. Hence, this review. I didn't like this book at all, but I wish the author success and a million sales.



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Book 1

23 July 2015

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson




Every horror-lover has heard of this book. A classic of the genre, praised by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. Chilling, disturbing, blood-curdling.

Alright, I seriously think something is wrong with me. Because this book was neither chilling nor terrifying. And it was a real nightmare for someone suffering from ADD (attention deficit disorder). I admit that my ADD has reached unbelievable heights. Sometimes I read the same passages 2-3 times. Sometimes I read the words, but think of something else, and have to go back, over and over again. And this book was hard to follow. I wasn't always sure what was going on. It had good moments and was filled with psychological themes, offering an insight into a troubled mind, but I couldn't understand any of the characters' actions. They knew from the beginning that the house might be haunted, but each time something disturbing happened, their reactions were befuddling. Whenever they seemed to encounter a contact from the other side, they would giggle or laugh, or talk some nonsense. I didn't understand half of the dialogue.

It was obvious from the beginning that Eleanor had serious psychological problems. She went from liking Theodora (another visitor of the house) to hating her in a second. She was disturbed and the house was swallowing her, but most of the time we saw her walking outside and wondering what others were talking behind her back. The other three characters weren't interesting at all. Theodora and Luke and the doctor were boring. Maybe it was because we saw them through Eleanor's eyes, but they were not interesting at all. There was a governess, a very curt woman, who never smiled or said anything more than necessary. But then she got engaged into a more or less nice conversation with a new guest. That was out of character and spoiled the book's atmosphere. Thus, I didn't really understand what it was: a psychological thriller, a story about ghosts, or a tale of madness. I was expecting so much fright I avoided reading it at night (especially after being attacked by a huge cricket), but this book wasn't scary at all. It was full of psychological moments, but it wasn't the horror story I had been expecting. Maybe I really missed something. And maybe one day I'll give this book a second try. Time will tell.



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