Thinking Thursday: Retro Reviews [1]

Welcome back to Thinking Thursday everyone! Retro reviews is essentially me providing 3-5 very short reviews for books I read some time ago. These will be abbreviated reviews and will not include all the information I would in a normal review for the sake of your time (and mine). All cover images were retrieved through Google Images or Goodreads and do not belong to me. Enjoy!

Thinking about Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy by Dinty W. Moore

Today’s book is a nonfiction collection of essays. Le gasp!

Also, I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books so thank for you very much!

Dear-Mister-Essay-Writer-Guy

Title || Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals [Goodreads]
Author || Dinty W. Moore
Published || August 2015
Form || Hardcover
Genre || Nonfiction
Rating || 3/5
Yay || The format, the humor
Nay || The humor
Summary || Dinty W. Moore writes responses to questions posed him by other writers, complete with essays to elaborate on those responses.


THE REVIEW

Have you ever read a book that just left you feeling cold? A book that wasn’t necessarily bad, but made you feel… nothing? Unfortunately, for me, this book was it.

Yeah, it was funny, but I didn’t laugh.

Humor is very hit-or-miss. Everybody has a different sense of humor. No joke delivers universally well. We argue over what jokes are tasteful and which jokes are crude. Some are supposed to make you laugh out loud. Others are supposed to make you smile to yourself and nod and go “it’s funny because it’s true.”

I’m not sure where exactly this book was trying to hit, but it missed me. I could appreciate the humor in some parts, but I snorted at best, and sort of acknowledged it but glossed on at worst. There was humor, it was funny, but I kind of hoped for more even as I was reading it.

Yeah, the format was cool, but it didn’t really add much to the content.

My favorite part of the book is undoubtedly the format. The letters are set apart on the page as actual letters. Each essay is ended with a napkin drawing of a polar bear. Some of the essays had specials formats, like facebook statuses, napkin pages, or googlemaps framing. And these were really cool.

But I feel like the emphasis of the material, the rise of emotion and the deepening of meaning were sort of lost on them. I didn’t feel as though they really added anything to the content, except to make me pay attention a little more—and the three formats I listed are not my favorite essays. (My favorite essay, for reference, is “Don’t Read This Essay”–because of the poignant note at the end, not even the humor.)

Yeah, it was memorable, but there was no oomph.

This is easily the most ephemeral part of this review. I don’t want to say the book was bad, because I don’t think it was. I don’t want to say the book was good either, though. Except for the aforementioned favorite, this book just left me feeling a little blah. I raced through it in an afternoon mostly because the style made it quick to read, and it was short.

Recommend? Maybe.
Recommended for? People who think the format sounds cool and who generally enjoy humorist essays


Thanks for reading!
Have you read Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy?
What did you think?
If not, would you want to?
What was the last book that left you feeling cold?


You can friend me on Goodreads
and follow me on Twitter or Bloglovin’ if you like!

Thinking about Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

Hello! It’s Thinking Thursday, and that means it’s time for a review 😀 I read this book for a book club I helped start up recently, and talking things through with the others in the book club definitely helped me think about the book a bit more.

Thanks to Google Images!

Thanks to Google Images!

Title || Anno Dracula (GoodReads)
Author || Kim Newman
Published || 2011 by Titan Books (Reprint)
Form || Paperback
Genre || Alternate History, Paranormal, Adult
Rating || 3/5
Yay || Writing style, the reference game, the characters, the worldbuilding
Nay || The reference game, dissatisfying, the last chapter
Summary || In a world where Count Dracula married Queen Victoria, our heroes hunt down Jack the Ripper, who goes around killing vampire prostitutes.


THE REVIEW

The key thing about this book is that it could have been so much better than it was.

It wasn’t bad. It was fun, it was entertaining, it was a quick read (I finished its 400 pages in about 2 days, between work and 6-hour gaming sessions). I found it particularly interesting that we know from the first two chapters who Jack the Ripper is–so the book isn’t really about finding out who he is for the reader, but rather watching the characters go through the trials and tribulations of doing so. Where one mystery is solved for the reader, others are not. Usually I’m not a fan of dramatic irony (I usually find it annoying rather than amusing) but I found that it worked well here.

Less well went the reference game. Newman mentions in his afterword that he’s misappropriated many characters from history and from fiction. Sherlock Holmes is in prison and Inspector Lestrade is hunting for Jack the Ripper. Dracula is the Queen’s consort, and Dr. Jack Seward is helping the poor and downtrod. Bram Stoker has disappeared, and Oscar Wilde makes an appearance. Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Moreau research vampires. Carmilla was apparently killed some time ago.

I have to admit, i was rather excited when I caught these references (among others). It didn’t work, however, for me in that I found myself glazing over other names, at once curious and too lazy to discover which were references and which original. Newman takes most heavily from Dracula, the stories of Sherlock Holmes, and the actual Jack the Ripper case from the 1880s (which, thanks to a class I took this past semester, I knew rather well). You don’t have to know these things to enjoy the book on its own merits, but I found that it helps (even as the other references, like Lord Ruthven, ran away from me).

However, Newman complimented this throwing together of worlds with splendid world building. I found the different bloodlines for vampires interesting to learn about, and the way in which vampirism changed London was absolutely brilliant. Honestly, I think it saved the book. The characters were decent, but I don’t feel like they stood out very much. Genevieve would be called a Mary Sue, I think, if we tucked her into fanfiction. I wish Charles’s motivations in marrying Penelope were clearer. An extra dose of character development would have done a lot for this book, honestly. There was too much going on for everything to matter as much as it could have.

The end, though. The last chapter just didn’t fit with the rest of the book, in my opinion. It felt rushed. The writing style mimicked that of a previous chapter–but where it had worked in the previous chapter, it didn’t work here. I wish it had been handled differently, spread out a bit more, so that the mystery (which, to me, wasn’t a mystery at all) were in the execution of the act rather than the act itself.

I’m just a bit torn on this book. When I give the first book in a series 3 stars, it usually means I’ll give the next book a chance. Here, though, I don’t know.

Recommend? Borrow
Recommended for? Fans of the above mentioned works, alternate history, and vampires in general.


Thanks for reading!
Have you read Anno Dracula? What did you think?
If you haven’t, do you now want to?
How do you feel about allusion or appropriation
of well-known characters and works?


You can friend me on Goodreads
and follow me on Twitter or Bloglovin’ if you like!

Thinking about Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hello! It’s Thinking Thursday, and that means it’s time for a review 😀 I read this book a couple of weeks ago, and kind of took forever to get my review up. Sorry D:

Thanks to Google Images!

Thanks to Google Images!

Title || Hex Hall (GoodReads)
Author || Rachel Hawkins
Published || 2010 by Hyperion
Form || Audiobook
Genre || Urban Fantasy
Rating || 3/5
Yay || Diversity in YA, interesting take on old themes
Nay || Predictability, the romantic relationship
Summary || After a spell goes awry, Sophie gets sent to a school for magic folks–and tries to figure out why witches are dying there.


THE REVIEW

Dear Hex Hall,

I am perfectly willing to admit that no everything I like is of “quality,” “respectable standing,” or whatever. Often, this occurs because the media still does something really right, despite problems I might have. I know this tends to overlap with a sort of elitism in reviewing–that some things are inherently somehow better than others. I’m not referring to that, exactly.

You, Hex Hall, are one of those books, though.

First, I want to praise the person who read you aloud. She did a wonderful job of realizing the accents of the characters, and making them sound like individuals–I didn’t have to wait for the tags to know who was speaking, and it made experiencing you as a book so wonderful.

Otherwise, you do some things so beautifully right. You are one of the few YA books I’ve read with really good female friendships. The friendship between the darker coven of witches, and then between your MC Sophie and her roommate–they’re just so wonderfully done and, in the latter case, grown in a way I found organic and charming. Even while your mythos is reminiscent of many other books I’ve read, you are a wonderful spin on this mythos. You own it. You are immersive and wonderful. It just made sense to me, though maybe if I looked more deeply I might have issues. I don’t know. For what I read, though, you were fun and, while not new, interesting.

I’d also really like to comment on some of the diversity here. We have positively portrayed minorities who play major roles in the books and are developed with depth, rather than stereotype. It just made me happy. Why do we not see that more often?

You weren’t perfect, though, Hex Hall. I found you a bit predictable–which another reader may not. Another reader may only see the factors as foreshadowing, rather than outright predictable. The main romantic relationship you feature was… disappointing. The depth of the emotions associated with it didn’t seem to fit–it could be either that Sophie is 16 and thus exaggerating, or there wasn’t enough put into developing the crush over the friendship. Maybe it was just Sophie’s gullibility I found frustrating sometimes.

Overall, I did find you enjoyable. You just didn’t stand out among the crowd as much as you could have.

Sincerely,
Blaise


Thanks for reading!
Have you read Hex Hall? What did you think?
If you haven’t, do you now want to?


You can friend me on Goodreads
and follow me on Twitter or Bloglovin’ if you like!