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!
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!
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.
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.
Recommended for? People who think the format sounds cool and who generally enjoy humorist essays
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?
It’s Thinking Thursday and that means it’s time for a book review! I cried at least four times while reading this book, so I thought I’d note the four reasons the book made me cry. I hope I can do it justice—I’m not saying that it’s perfect, but it’s perfect for me.
Title || Magonia [Goodreads]
Author || Maria Dahvana Headley
Published || 2015 by Harper Collins
Form || Hardcover
Genre || Paranormal? Urban Fantasy? Magical realism?
Rating || 5/5
Yay || The worldbuilding, the characters, the voice/writing
Nay || I… don’t know
Summary || Aza Ray can’t breathe on Earth, and when she wakes up on a flying ship, she finds out why.
From page one, I was emotionally invested in the book. The writing has such a voice to it, so conversational that it seems almost like someone is sitting in front of you and telling you this story, but some how removed enough that it’s almost as if it’s actually happening to the narrator. I was instantly sucked in and instantly cared. I felt the adoration (ad the frustration and fear) of Aza’s parents even in the first couple of chapters, as she described the inconveniences of her condition to her family and how much they cared for her. I’m tearing up a little now just thinking about it.
If the writing hadn’t done it, the characters would have. I cared about Aza and about Jason and their parents. I won’t speak for the development—I’m a little too close to that to really see it, though I’m inclined to say it was wonderful. The characters themselves, though, were so real to me. I could imagine these people existing somewhere out in the universe, speaking and walking around. Their grief struck me in the heart and resonated so strongly with me that I can do nothing but applaud (and cry a little).
The last chapter broke my heart a little, and managed to repair it at the same time. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but I will say that the way everything came together, the note it concluded on, was just what I wanted, just what I needed, and completely and totally satisfied me. This book could stand alone, but apparently there’s a sequel coming and I am sooooo excited.
These are the little things, really, that I loved about the book, even if individually they didn’t make me cry. The atmospheric set-up once we’re on the ships is wonderful and a little strange. There are several reviews I’ve read that commented on this book being a little weird for them, but this worked so incredibly well for me, personally. It was familiar enough to be comforting, to have me guessing, and different enough that it felt original. I love that the narrative is based around a myth I don’t think anybody else is using right now.
Recommend? Mostly yes
Recommended for? Fans of beautiful but conversational writing, people who don’t mind birds or a little weirdness, and lovers of emotional narrative
Have you read Magonia?
What did you think?
If you haven’t, would you want to?
Today isn’t Thursday, but this is a bit overdue, so here you are! This is definitely an adult book, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t comfortable with violence or swearing. Beware!
Also, I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books!
Title || The Library at Mount Char [Goodreads]
Author || Scott Hawkins
Published || June 2015
Form || Hardcover
Genre || Fantasy, Horror
Rating || 2/5
Yay || The worldbuilding
Nay || The writing, the plot, the characters
Summary || God is missing, so his children have to hunt him down–or kill each other trying to take his place.
In the beginning…
I was introduced to characters who had potential. I looked forward to finding out who these people were and how they would impact the story. They were quirky enough to hold my attention, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing.
The worldbuilding quickly blew me away. I wanted to know everything there was to know about the catalogs, and how they came to be, and how they worked. Could just anyone learn them?
Everything went downhill. The worldbuilding took a back seat to that “plot,” which I put in quotation marks because I didn’t feel as though there was really a common thread throughout the novel. Rather than x leading to y, it felt like x happened, then y happened, and then z happened, the logical connection between them was, to me, a little lost in sense. It was as if any vestiges of a plot appeared to implode, losing track of themselves and squandering any interest in the hopes of… excitement? Were these explosions and fight scenes supposed to impress me?
Nor did I really find much depth to the characters—a shame, really, as there was a lot of potential for interesting things to develop. Unfortunately, it felt very much as though Carolyn (and everybody else, but she mattered the most) was the same person on page 1 as she was on page 388. Even for someone with that magnitude of power, it doesn’t seem right. Worse, it isn’t interesting.
And why did Steve matter so much? There was no emotion to the writing, allowing for little to no sense behind why Carolyn was so obsessed with him. I didn’t feel whatever it was she was supposed to be feeling, which was, honestly, massively frustrating.
It all came to a head when…
It tried to salvage what had crashed and burned merrily for the middle 250-300 pages. On some level, I suppose I was satisfied. But it wasn’t enough to recover the boredom and frustration of that major chunk, and thus I couldn’t rate it any higher. In a sense, this book is a good example of the fact that a wonderful idea can be destroyed with poor execution.
Recommend? Only to very specific people.
Recommended for? Those who like horror novels, explosions, and dark worldbuilding.
Have you read The Library at Mount Char?
What did you think?
Hello! It’s Thinking Thursday, and that means it’s time for a review 😀 I got this eARC for free from the author with the challenge to write a review. I am SO excited to share this with you and I hope you all rush to pick this one up soon!
Title || Eve: The Awakening [GoodReads] [Preorder HERE!]
Author || Jenna Moreci [twitter] [youtube] [tumblr]
Published || August 2015
Form || eARC
Genre || Science Fiction
Rating || 4/5
Yay || The dialogue, the characters, the plot
Nay || The writing
Summary || Eve is a chimaera–stronger, faster, and gifted with telekinetic abilities–and she’s tired of these aliens killing people.
Dear Eve: The Awakening,
I have so much to say to you, to say about you, that this will be a long review. To make it more digestible, both for your sake and mine, I’ve divided it into sections. I want to be thorough in explaining myself to you and to any other readers.
Eve, your characters were magnificent. They each felt real. I adored Sancho and Percy and even JJ, towards the end, though I still don’t quite trust her. Armaan had me cheering—he reminds me so much of Firefly’s Wash and I can’t say why, except I love them both. I found Madison’s mood swings fascinating and Heather’s complexity and wits impressive, even as I grew to hate her as much as Eve did. Your characterization was just so splendidly done that I couldn’t help but fall in love with every single one of them—even the side characters like Ramsey and Furst felt really real.
Jason played such a wonderful contrast to too many heroes I’ve seen, and that made you so much more enjoyable. The romantic subplot felt altogether more plausible as I could see him unraveling and raveling around the protagonist.
And your heroine… she was wonderful. Eve was abrasive and socially awkward, but she had good reasons for being so. Seeing her grow over the course of the novel, seeing her defenses adjust to let others climb over the walls she had built around her heart… it was just so well-done.
If I had to pick one thing that you did right, Eve, it’s the dialogue. I mention it second because it is through the dialogue that the characters shine more than anywhere else, and this author has a skill for writing snarky retorts and hilarious exchanges between characters that I admire and wish I could emulate.
I have nothing but praise for the dialogue.
Unfortunately, Eve, I’ve something a little less than praise for the writing in you. I’ve been watching your author’s writing videos so much lately that it was difficult not to read you as a writer, a critique partner, perhaps, and I couldn’t help but notice the things I would do differently. I found some of the narrative didn’t quite work me as well as the dialogue did—if I were to do a line-edit, there would be things I would change. On the line level, this didn’t bother as much as it did in the greater scheme of things.
There are certain scenes in you, Eve, that I would have shortened or cut altogether. Similarly, there are conflicts and scenes that were left out, or summarized, that I would have really liked to see written out—especially given the skill with which your dialogue was written, Eve. Your chapters were sometimes frustratingly long. At the end of them, I found myself more likely to put “down” the ebook for a break than being pulled to keep reading. The scene breaks, in that sense, felt too much like breaks and too little like leading hooks, dragging me further.
I want a physical copy of you so badly, though, precisely because of those videos. I want to mark it up and add sticky notes and tabs to it, to study it and pull apart how you work, Eve. The same writerly perspective that has me criticizing some aspects has me wanting to study the rest to improve my own writing, and that is wonderful.
Your author has mentioned in her videos that she does not particularly enjoy reading or writing setting-heavy scenes, but for that, I think this was done especially well. The way information of the futuristic world and technology was dropped into the setting hit the happy spot, for me, because it wasn’t too much and it wasn’t too little. The hints were perfect to imagine a larger world around them, and they made so much sense.
Also the Interlopers. JFC. The anatomy lesson made me so happy. The way both the Interlopers (the aliens) and the Chimaera were explained was just wonderful. Another reader might complain about the info-dump, but I thought it exceedingly well-done.
The suspense, for me, was hurt a little bit by the way you would switch POV from Eve to Jason occasionally. I think it would be more interesting had we stuck to Eve unless absolutely necessary—the scene with Percy and the second to last chapter with the hospital were the only ones where I really felt a different POV was necessary. Otherwise, Jason’s was jarring. I would rather not know what happened in the fight because Eve’s unconscious than I would want to switch heads just to witness it.
But then I’m not a huge fan of fight scenes in general. I just didn’t think that was a good enough reason to switch points of view.
Otherwise, Eve, the way your plot built up and escalated was beautiful. The end in particular, I think, is laudable: while you delivered a beautifully wrapped up conclusion, you have kicked open the door for things to get a whole hell of a lot worse in future books—which I definitely want to read.
Author Bio [from Goodreads]: Jenna Moreci is a young adult/new adult author, vlogger extraordinaire, nerd-incognito, & alleged cyborg. She specializes in writing adorable, romantic goodness punctuated by moments of extreme violence and bloodshed. Her sanity is questionable. Some of Jenna’s other talents include prolific cursing, spilling/dropping things, accidentally making people cry, and drawing.
Recommend? Preorder~ Because why would you wait?
Recommended for? Fans of scary aliens, in-depth characters, a diverse cast, and well-plotted series openers.
Are you excited to read Eve: The Awakening?
Hello! It’s Thinking Thursday, and that means it’s time for a review 😀 But let me back track a little bit first: on Monday, I did a post on visual reading, and how it isn’t something I do. This was because I recently read The Complete Persepolis, and I wanted to explain why I reacted the way I did (at least in part). Now it’s time for my review of it, which will hopefully explain why I wanted to discuss visual reading first. Enjoy!
Title || The Complete Persepolis (GoodReads)
Author || Marjane Satrapi
Published || 2007 by Pantheon (Reprint combining the previous 4 volumes)
Form || Paperback
Genre || Memoir, Comic/Graphic Novel
Rating || 2/5
Yay || The culture
Nay || The format
Summary || Satrapi tells the story of growing up during the Islamic Revolution and its effects on her personal situation and identity.
As my previous post may suggest, I struggled a little bit with the format of this particular memoir. For me, a memoir is about sharing a part of yourself and thus forging a connection between the reader and the writer that is more intimate than what you would find in fiction or a biography (or even an autobiography, maybe). I found this connection lacking due to the medium—I had little to know emotional connection to the content, which severely limited my ability to enjoy this piece. I did experience occasional frustration, due to two things that I can identify.
First, I wasn’t able to follow the emotional or thematic thread of the story. I couldn’t figure out why she did the things she did, or why certain elements appeared and disappeared or otherwise changed in importance. (This might be somewhat representative of it previously being in four volumes.) It was a level of detachment that just didn’t work for me. I think that would have been easier for me if the story had been in writing–I think having the words to explain beyond mere dialogue, to process her thoughts, would have made things much easier for me personally. Another reader may have no trouble at all with this.
Second, although there was the occasional info dump explaining the situation—whether through her parents, the news, or others in her life—I found myself more often than not feeling like I didn’t know enough about the political situation at hand. I came into the book knowing a little bit about the culture and the religion, but my general knowledge of history and politics is spotty. I felt like I had to do research to appreciate the book, and that frustrated me a little bit because I wasn’t prepared for it.
However, I found what information I did get absolutely fascinating. The way she addressed and depicted the culture shock of these different places—especially in her return home—is something I personally could connect with because I’ve experienced it. That was, unfortunately, the extent of that connection though.
Overall, it was a quick read. I wasn’t engrossed, nor did I feel a need to put it down, really–but when I did, I had little to no urge to pick it up again either. Like The Moth Diaries (which I always mistype as Mother on the first try), it’s not that I dislike the piece. I’m just not particularly fond of it.
And here, that is entirely on me and my personal preferences. Another reader may very well enjoy the visual story. At least I wasn’t bored ^^
Recommended for? Fans of graphic novels, fans of contemporary/memoir, those interested in the Islamic Revolution, those who have experienced or wish to learn about different cultures (especially culture shock)
Have you read The Complete Persepolis? What did you think?
If you haven’t, do you now want to?