Review: The Palace Job

The Palace Job
The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**Thank you so much to Amazon Publishing for providing me with a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**

A magical heist novel? Sign me up immediately!

As the first book in a series, this is a promising start. The characters are a joy, ranging from the badass female head thief, who may as well be called Zoe Washburne because that’s how I’m going to remember her in my head; a wizard with a rather questionable set of personal mores who can tell some top-notch “your mum” jokes; a unicorn with virgin rider-orientation; and a talking warhammer.

Yes, I know. You’re all salivating at this wild cast of characters. And they are, without question, the absolute highlight of this novel.

The downside is that they run the risk of disappearing amidst an uncomfortable novel-structure. The point-of-views of the characters can change mid-chapter with little warning, and even between chapters you’re never really sure who you’re reading for probably the first chunk of said chapter. It’s frustrating, because these characters are so great and the story is so enjoyable – but when the structure is this much of an impediment, then I have to dock stars from the overall rating.

Still, this is definitely a book I could easily (and still highly) recommend!

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Review: Movie Game

Movie Game
Movie Game by Michael Ebner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**Thank you to Pen and Picture for providing me with a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**

I don’t really know what to say about this book. I don’t really know what the think about this book.

I initially approached this book with a degree of caution, fearing from its description that it would be something too similar to Ernest Cline’s recent release, ARMADA, for my own liking. I was pleased to swiftly discover that this was very far from the case.

However I was not so pleased to discover that, while this book had some good moments, it was overall not quite my cup of tea. I found the writing good, but not great; the main character particularly unlikable; and the overarching plot not entertaining enough to make up for the poor characterization.

So, on the whole, it’s alright. It’s not great, but it’s definitely not the worst thing I’ve read. I know people who will enjoy this book as well as some people to whom I could readily recommend this book. It just didn’t work for me.

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Review: Slade House

Slade House
Slade House by David Mitchell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**Thank you to Random House for providing me with a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**

Alright, let’s first state the obvious: I love David Mitchell. No, really — I don’t think I’ve ever rated any of the novels I’ve read by him under four stars.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to tell you why I loved SLADE HOUSE.

A kind of companion to Mr. Mitchell’s previous release, THE BONE CLOCKS, this significantly shorter story takes us into a story type I had yet to see from Mr. Mitchell: the ghost story.

This isn’t necessarily “horror” per say, though there are plenty of moments to raise the hairs on your arm and have you hoping you’ve left all the lights on. No, this is more of the ghost story that I appreciate: it’s all about atmosphere. Mr. Mitchell accomplishes this through a number of literary tricks, even ones as simple as the utilization of…


See what I did there? Indulge me, I’m trying to write without just purely gushing over this little novel’s brilliance.

I felt as drawn to this book as the poor characters who end up trapped inside the Slade House and, yes, I adored the self-referential element that comes to dominate the final third of the novel. I’m a sucker for inter-novel references, and Mr. Mitchell is a master in that practice. THE BONE CLOCKS weaves its way throughout SLADE HOUSE, but not so much that you couldn’t read this as a standalone piece.

Simply put: this novel is a whole lot of creepy atmosphere in a tiny little package. Definitely not one to miss.

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Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

The Girl in the Spider's Web
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I went into this book with an open mind — mainly because when I first started Stieg Larsson’s illennium Trilogy, I couldn’t even finish it. I’d been given The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as a gift and the universe help me if I didn’t try reading that book six times before giving up. Eventually, however, my father got me to listen to the audiobooks and, sure enough, I found myself so engrossed in the story that I binge-listened to all three novels in under a week. I have also, of course, gone back and physically read the novels as well; needless to say, I enjoy the trilogy immensely — I even own two sets of it.

When I first heard there was to be a fourth book, written by a ghost writer, I thought a deal had finally been reached with Larsson’s widow/partner to let his incomplete fourth manuscript into the world.

Yeah, that’s not what this is.

Honestly, I’m not usually a fan of people “tacking on” to complete stories — especially when the original author has no hand in it — because, well, the story is done. It’s finished. I know some people who weren’t happy with the ending of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, but I found it very fitting. The characters solved the overarching mystery and both Mikael and Lisbeth were mending their many broken fences to be true friends. I like that. It’s a great ending.

And now we have this. Written without reference as to what was in Larsson’s unfinished manuscript. This wouldn’t bother me so long as the book, for me, felt like a Millennium book — if I could shut my eyes, listen, and feel like, sure, Stieg Larsson could have written this.

But it doesn’t. It really doesn’t.

The cadence of the writing — obviously the first thing I notice in an audiobook, especially given the reader of the original trilogy, Simon Vance, is back for this novel as well — is completely off; the characters, especially Mikael, behave in ways that are totally out of character from what was established in the original trilogy.

The ultimate problem, I think, is that Lisbeth-mania from readers overshadowed what was really a dynamic team. Readers loved Lisbeth Salander: looks like a fifteen-year old boy, smarter than a whip with a temper to match, unparalleled hacking skills, and a “fuck off” attitude. Sure. How can you not love that? I won’t deny that I did, but —and I really have to stress this — I liked her because of her contrast with Mikael. He was just as a strong a character as Lisbeth: intelligent, stubborn, open-minded, and very woman-friendly. He was the perfect person to pair with Lisbeth because their contrasts complimented each other. In The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Mikael’s character is the one that suffers the most. As a result, the team dynamic of Mikael and Lisbeth suffers. That, for me, effectually ruins the novel.

Let me be clear: this could have been good. I really think it could have been. Unfortunately, for me, it wasn’t.

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Review: The Undays of Aralias Lyons

The Undays of Aralias Lyons
The Undays of Aralias Lyons by K.L. Horvath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**Thank you to Booktrope for providing me with a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**

I truly wish I were able to post half-stars because this is certainly a 3.5/5-star book for me because of the novel’s inconsistency. It’s a novel of extremes: what’s done well, is done really well; but what’s not done so well becomes a serious problem for the reader.

First, the positives: these characters are great. Truly, the team of characters assembled in this novel are such a joy to read. Our protagonist, the titular Aralias Lyons, is a Victorian-era version of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor – specifically that Doctor’s predilection for stream-of-consciousness speeches that took place at top speed. Combine that with a snarky gruffness of an Indiana Jones-type and a wonderful devotion to his son and, well, that’s Aralias Lyons in a nutshell. I praise Ms. Horvath’s ability to capture what we in the 21st century see as Victorian-era speech and keep with the speech pattern consistently throughout the novel because it’s one of those things that, for me, helped shape Aralias more clearly in my mind.

Aralias has the potential to become a true conundrum within his own story, particularly in his interactions with Clara Heartwell. Clara is introduced early into the story and swiftly becomes a romantic interest for Aralias. While I admit that the two of them together had some lovely moments – especially in the last third – I never truly bought into their chemistry. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, especially when it comes to books on time travel, but their romance never clicked with me. I just simply didn’t buy it, no matter how much I wanted to.

Speaking of time travel, I never really did wrap my head exactly around how it all worked. There were scattered puzzle pieces I thought I understood, but if you asked me to explain to you the mechanics of this novel’s time travel, I wouldn’t be able to.

The writing is simple, but that doesn’t dampen the vividness of its imagery. When Ms. Horvath describes the segments where we, as the reader, travel through time with Aralias and experience multiple different spaces in time, her writing is full and lush – it’s all technicolour with high saturation. Unfortunately it does mean the rest of the book’s writing and storytelling is left rather grey. This novel could have used another round or two of edits in order to help the cadence and flow of the story: it’s terribly uneven and makes for a less-desirable reading experience. A shame given what parts of the story flow well are supremely entertaining.

I would recommend this book more for readers of Young Adult literature, as the pacing of the story and the simplicity of the writing combined with the romantic angle between Aralias and Clara combine to form a final product that I think will appeal more to that demographic of readers.

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Review: The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a very good middle-grade book. My family’s pretty deeply rooted in the Classics, so I can see why my younger brother — who virtually almost never reads — became so enthralled with this series as a child.

However, it’s not just not to my tastes — and I don’t think it’s meant to be. I firmly believe I am not the audience for this book, and that’s okay. I’m happy that my younger brother had a series that he could anticipate the way I used to anticipate the next Harry Potter book; and I’m glad it also spurred along in him a period of interest in Greek mythology.

As for me: not my thing, but I’m glad I can at least say I did read it.

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