Monthly Archives: April 2016

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This is not your teenager’s dystopian novel.

I’m a fan of a certain type of dystopian novel…ones that show us the human side of people struggling against terrible odds to maintain their humanity. Among my favorites, Station Eleven has risen to the top.

Told from multiple points of view in chapters that alternate between pre-flu and post-flu years, this novel is ambitious but never feels difficult to read. That alone is a triumph of the author’s skills. Here the skills are turned toward the hearts of individuals who remember the world before the pandemic and those who were too young to really miss the ease of technology and industry.

The thread that runs throughout is the life of a single actor who dies the night the flu really begins to take hold. His death is not flu-related yet everything about his life is. He is an example of how individuals can rise toward the pinnacle of celebrity before tumbling into ignominy. He wants to inspire and enlighten through art yet somehow is mired in trappings he cannot control.

And yet his legacy lives on. The art he brought to the world is carried on by a traveling troop who provides music and performances to people starved of culture in the post-everything world. The love he felt resonates still in the hearts of those he loved and people he died too early to meet.

By showing how one life can survive even the decimation of 99% of the world’s population, the author has managed to show us how even we, in our rush of technology and industry, make a difference.

5 stars!

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published 1911

This was pure delight to read. From the opening when the narrator calls Mary Lennox “as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived” to the end, this story and the characters held me enthralled. I expected to find the narrative outdated and overly formal; instead I found a pleasantly lilting narrative voice that readers of any age can enjoy.

My favorite moment was when Mary takes the “sickly” spoiled boy to task. Talk about a battle of wills! I laughed out loud several times. What a lovely book!

5 stars

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Fires of Invention by Scott J. Savage

Fires of Invention by Scott J. Savage

This middle-grade reader is everything you’d expect it to be…which is both good and bad.

It’s quickly paced with lots of interesting activities undertaken by the protagonist (a boy) and his inventive friend (a girl). While the author earns kudos for giving equal the mechanical abilities to the girl along with a heaping serving of intelligence, it’s odd that she isn’t the main character. She is the one who creates the mechanical dragon that will free their society from their imprisonment (both physical imprisonment underground and their society’s imprisonment to a government that lies to them about why they’re underground)…so why isn’t she the main character?

The boy spends a lot of time ducking his parents and other adults who might cause trouble. But other than that, he isn’t the primary active party here. The book therefore seems to move in fits and starts. Readers miss out on a lot of what goes into building the mechanical dragon, and instead have to follow the boy around during his days while he thinks about things. And we all know what happens to a reader’s interest when the characters start thinking about things and stop doing things.

3 stars.

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Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

Available from William Morrow Paperbacks April, 2015

Urgh. Slow, slow, slow. ‘Nuff said. (Other than the publisher gave me an ARC.)

OK, not enough said. Here are the issues.

The writing doesn’t have much vividness to it. That’s mostly about voice. This voice is fairly clean and simple, which in and of itself is fine. But it needs to be matched by something else…either characters that intrigue reader, or plot elements that captivate, or a combination of a little of each (or even a lot of each).

The author doesn’t really show much on either of these other fronts. Perhaps this is because this is the book out of a series, and a few have come before. But every book in a series needs to work as a stand-alone. While this does work as a standalone, it’s possible that the flaws in this novel appear because readers of the previous novels will have much more background coming to this one.

Since I can’t judge this as part of a series, I have to judge it as a standalone. And that produces a very low rating.

DNF: no star rating available.

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Freed by Stacey Kennedy

Freed by Stacey Kennedy

Available from Loveswept, 2014

Not my first foray into romance or erotica but this is my first full reading of a genre book about BDSM. I tried reading Shades of Gray but urgh, it was so terribly written I just couldn’t slough past the first chapter.

I can’t honestly say Freed was much better. The writing was basic…good enough not to be distracting yet lacking in a voice that was compelling. Not that I expected much of the voice in this category, so that point ends up with an average rating.

The characterization was pretty basic as well. Also as expected, so also average on that rating point. However, the narrative that dealt with the characterization was so terribly repetitive I skimmed much of it.

Now, in romance, the formula is that whenever the characters are apart, they pine for each other. Fair enough. But the pining of these two could be categorize as:

Guy: Desperately wants this woman who is clearly the woman of his dreams (oh, and every time he thinks of her, “his cock twitched in his pants.” Well, I was glad to hear he wasn’t going around dangling free all the time, so was grateful to learn that it was always in his pants. Always. Every time. Repetitive, see? And that’s only one example).

Gal: Still grieving for her dead husband but doesn’t know it. These bits at least have some flashbacks (very poorly handled by italicizing…italicizing!!! Like readers won’t otherwise know it’s a flashback!!!) so at least it provides new info. But the rest is summed up as: she wants something but are her feelings betraying her dead husband? Why oh why does she feel so torn?

And, since this is a steamy (erotic) romance revolving around BDSM, I am obliged to provide an analysis of the sex scenes. Pretty good, actually. Nicely drawn, lots of details without getting cheesy with the euphemisms.

So, the rating. For general reading, it would have to be 2 stars. But when you pick up this kind of book, you’re not looking for general reading, you’re looking for hot spicy sexiness. And maybe some true love on the side. So the rating in this category for this book would be:

4 stars

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