Book Review: My Real Children by Jo Walton

“She felt her strong young body that she had never appreciated when she had it, constantly worrying that she didn’t meet standards of beauty and not understanding how standards of health were so much more important.”

― Jo Walton, My Real Children

Patricia Cowan is 89 years old and she’s very confused. Living at a rest home, she seems to remember two very different lives. From the people she met, the children she bore, the places she’s been she remembers each detail but she’s very confused as to which life did she really lead.

Nominated for this year’s(2015) World Fantasy Awards, I was excited to read My Real Children. I have to admit I have expectations but they were minimal and I did read this book with an open mind. The book starts off with Patricia Cowan staying in what it seems like a nursing home for old people. She is 89 years old and for some odd reason she’s remembering having led two different lives. Then the book goes into her early years starting when she’s 7 years old. We follow her story year after year, it then came to a point where she’s presented with 2 options. Both of which would have tremendous impact to her life.

The book is split from then onward telling the events of what happened to both choices. To give the author credit, creating a two different stories into one book, both stories were written extremely well. The attention to detail on both stories were impressive and both felt complete. Both stories have their own share of ups and downs and you do feel these ups and downs. As a chapter might end on a good note, the next might not. It felt like riding two different emotional roller-coasters.

Unfortunately the book is not engaging as it sounds as there is no big conflict. The story is limited to what Patty or Trisha is doing on a day to day basis. It’s almost like she’s just being followed around by a camera crew and we watch or in this case read what she’s doing for the day. This results to boring chapters where it is hard to read on forward. Not to mention the split comes out of nowhere and left me confused as to what was happening. I did get used to it after I read on, though I wish there had been more clarity behind it.

My huge complaint however is the large amount characters, since the book is split into two Patricia meets different people on each story and she met a lot. Not to mention she’s got kids on both stories and they all have different names at a point where it’s difficult to establish who is who making it difficult to care for them. Now each character has his/her own set of problems and go through different trials and you do feel bad whenever a tragedy occurs however being unclear of who is who and what is what the emotional effect has very little impact.

Overall, I thought the book was good, each story goes through realistic presentations of life, from wars, religion, sexuality, loss, hardships etc, it is admirable for what it’s trying to achieve. Unfortunately it didn’t connect with me emotionally but with a good concept and a satisfying ending it does deserve the nomination it got.

Rating: 3/5

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Book Review: Replay by Ken Grimwood

“All life includes loss. It’s taken me many, many years to learn to deal with that, and I don’t expect I’ll ever be fully resigned to it. But that doesn’t mean we have to turn away from the world, or stop striving for the best that we can do and be. We owe that much to ourselves, at least, and we deserve whatever measure of good may come of it.”

-Replay, Ken Grimwood

Jeff Winston was 43 years old when he felt something his heart, he’s stunned and just like that he died of heart attack, in the year of 1988. Suddenly he awoke in his college dorm room at Emory, the year was 1963 and once again Jeff Winston was 18 years old.

Replay started off strong, right off the bat, our protagonist died and woke up 25 years earlier in his 18 year old body. Straight away there’s intrigue, I wanted to know how and why as well as follow Jeff’s bizarre story. There was a feeling of anticipation within me, it felt like I’m about to embark on an amazing sci-fi/fantasy journey with Replay. Unfortunately the sci-fi/fantasy aspect of Replay is underwhelming. It was during the beginning of the third act where I realized that Replay is more of a Romantic novel. That said, the romance was written very well, overwhelming on certain parts but if I’m going to give the book a credit it would be hitting the romance aspect right out the park.

With this being underwhelming on the fantasy/sci-fi part, the book also suffers on some aspects. There was a part of the first act where, there was absolutely nothing going on despite the strong early chapters. The pacing could have been a lot better and with the lack of sci-fi elements the book needed a quicker pace. Another complaint is our protagonist, Jeff Winston himself, he lacked the charisma to make me root for him. Compared to his counter parts or other characters he was the least person I cared about. His character was so bland where, there were parts where women went with him mainly because he’s got money.

That said, he was smart with several of his decisions. Any smart person would do what he had done when he woke up back in 1963. He was placing bets on winning teams, investing and buying stocks on start up companies who’re eventually going to become successful. There were a lot “yes that’s exactly what I would do” moments. Though unlikable as a character at least he was smart. Also a great part of the book was Jeff’s female love interest. She was written incredibly well she was the complete opposite of Jeff in terms of likability and she’s oozing with charisma. With her around Jeff sometimes becomes an afterthought and that’s how strongly she was written.

Overall the book is a great romantic story, just don’t expect it to be heavy on the sci-fi/fantasy aspect because waking up in a younger version of yourself is as good as it gets in terms of fantasy. It wasn’t what I was expecting but in the end I was OK with it. If there’s one lesson to take about the book, it is to remember major sports win or derby wins because you will never know. Highly recommended to people who are into romance-fantasy novels but for hardcore sci-fi/fantasy fans, this won’t be for you.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: Mr Suicide by Nicole Cushing

“You threw yourself onto the bed and under the covers. Thrashed around in them. Let out little groans you hoped no one could hear. You wished, for a moment you were in the loony bin. There, at least you’d have rubber walls to bounce off of. Here, all you could do was fidget between sheets and regret the that you lacked the courage of your convictions”

                          – Mr Suicide, Nicole Cushing.

Mr Suicide is without a doubt the most horrifying book I’ve ever read. It depicts extreme violence and gruesome events one after another, it is madness incarnate. The book is structured in a simple way, the author telling a story about you. You don’ know your name but you do know that you’re a boy with glasses living in Louisville, Kentucky. You live with your mom, dad and an older brother who’s 10 years older than you.

That said, that’s enough to drive this novel and boy are you in for a ride. A vicious, unforgiving, heartless and unforgettable one. A ride leading to either hell or insanity, take your pick both are equally damaging. You start off at a young age, we read your thoughts and we know straight away you are a damaged person in need of help, you don’t want to admit it but you do. With no one to help you, you hear a voice, Mr Suicide, and it tells you horrible things always mocking and prompting you to pull the trigger, year after year.

As you figured by now, the horror in here is not supernatural, there are no frightening creatures, no ghosts, spirits or demons but the horror part comes from the boy’s mind. It’s like watching a psychopath grow, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s unsettling to the point where I wanted to stop reading the book. I didn’t want to know what happens next but then it absorbs you, you can’t get away, you just got to know what happens next and I give the book credit on that area. Despite nothing good happening here at all, it gives you despicable event one after another and it is a slippery slide where there’s no escape. The events are brutal, graphic and disgusting.

There are moments here where some events are inadvertently funny despite being terrible. Also at the end it gets really silly to the point where it felt like you’re reading a different book and that’s my only complaint. Otherwise this is a strong horror book there’s a good mix of fantasy and realism and both are equally horrifying. Highly recommended to people who are familiar with Jack Ketchum’s work and if you can stomach extreme violence then this is for you. If not, then don’t even think about touching this book specially if you’re highly sensitive or fainted heart.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

“There were reprints of American editorials. Liberals saw it as a resurgence of social protest and decried the discrimination, poverty, and hunger that had provoked it. Conservative columnists acidly pointed out that hungry people don’t steal stereo systems first and called for a crackdown in law enforcement. All of the reasoned editorials sounded hollow in light of the perverse randomness of the event. It was as if only a thin wall of electric lighting protected the great cities of the world from total barbarism.”

– Dan Simmons, Song of Kali

Robert Luczack (Loo-Zack) has been asked to go to Calcutta, India to follow up on a sudden reappearance of a Legendary poet who disappeared and presumed dead 10 years prior. However for Robert things does not go as planned as he is slowly swallowed into the disturbing underworld of Calcutta, crossing paths with cults and other shady characters/organizations.

Firstly on today’s standards this would have faced a lot of problems as there is not one good thing the author has said about Calcutta nor it’s citizens. However the book’s been released 25 years ago and it even won an award so I’m going to assume any controversy about the writing of the city and it’s people have been dealt with.

Song of Kali started out strong, it hooked me right of the bat. The protagonist, Robert Luczack or Bobby, has been asked to go to Calcutta and everyone seemed against on it and it’s obvious he will go and without a doubt undergo a series of life changing events. Then the book goes and tell he will not be going alone but also with his wife and his 5 month old daughter. I knew right then the story’s gonna involve them and it won’t be good and from then I was hooked.

Cut to Calcutta and truly the author is set on preventing you to visit the place. From the smell, pollution, weather and people. The book might as well be called “101 Reasons to Never Visit Calcutta”. The things that Bobby witnessed are sickening, though the book says it’s just culture shock for a Westerner to witness such acts, the book proceeds and say in the form of Bobby’s wife, Amrita, that it’s not as much as culture shock but the culture itself is ridiculous, from the Caste System, to using human or animal excrement as a source of nutrition she even tells that when Ghandi was preaching, he said that hygiene was important among things. There is no redeeming factor for Calcutta, not in this book. That said all of it was interesting, the beauty of the book is that it’s not just a horror story but a horror story that one can learn from.

The book has a lot of great things to offer, though predictable at some points as there are a lot of foreshadowing. That said the book is almost a commentary on Indian literature. Mainly referencing Rabindranath Tagore’s works, and it is fascinating. It kept me turning the page and helped me read on. One thing I really liked is the book leaves me just as confused as the protagonist am I going to believe that something supernatural at work here or something scientific is behind it all, the book never tells and that could be both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because it kept me guessing what’s going to happen next and it’s bad because the book never establishes it and it’s all in the reader’s mind to decide.

Speaking of things I did not so much enjoy there are parts of the book where I felt the pacing could’ve been better. There is a 3 chapter flashback which surely could’ve been shorter and still keep the message behind it. As well as how Bobby refers to his wife, calling her “kiddo” most of the time, maybe we’re supposed to accept that, that’s just the dynamic between them but the wife is showed to be more intellectually superior than Robert at times and to be patronized quite often by the husband, it did not fit in well with me.

Overall the book isn’t great but it isn’t bad either, it will be a very quick read for it’s that much interesting, the Indian characters bring enough mystic with them that you never figure out if they’re the good guy or bad and they too were written very well. The book does not hold back either on it’s shocking moments as it will tell you that people are just evil and that’s that. With minor complaints this is a very good horror book and it’s recommended to anyone who enjoys the Dan Brown books or into cult related stories.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: And the Hills Opened Up by David Oppegaard

He wanted to shout them into the sky and have them taken by the wind. He wanted to be rid of their names and faces, the memory of their touch and he understood that his love for them was like a curse, a great eternal curse as strong and wicked as anything a demon could devise

-The Hills Opened Up, David Oppegaard

It’s the middle of the summer in Red Earth, Wyoming when miners blasted deeper into their copper mine. Little do they know, they unearthed a demon from within the mines and proceeded to kill everything in it’s path. At the same time the citizens of the town bands together as they try to stop the demon from killing everyone in town.

I picked up this book thinking it would be a fun campy horror book that would have some similar tone as the 1990 movie Tremors. Though the premise is almost the same where replace the monster with a humanoid demon referred to as The Charred Man. The novel is darker in tone, it is gory and it is non caring in a way that children, women and infants are killed in a violent and graphic way. So if you’re a fan of gore, guts and blood then this might be the book for you.

Unfortunately that’s the best the book has to offer. The characters are unlikable, there’s no one I wanted to root for, in the end I found myself rooting for the demon as everyone is selfish or are making nonsensical decisions. The women in the book are mostly whores or helpless housewives, the novel has no strong female character at all. Fortunately the book is only under 300 pages as it was quite difficult to keep up to it. Especially at the end where I felt like it dragged on for too long.

The pacing was also another problem as the book started out slow and it took a while to get to the second act. The second act did pick up, which is probably the best part of the book but only to be slowed down by the third act.

All in all, And the Hills Opened Up, had a lot of potential specially with it’s simple premise. It could’ve been fun and terrifying at the same time. However it’s dull characters and irregular pacing prevented me from liking at what could have been a great book.

Rating: 2.5/5

Book Review: A Dance of Chaos by David Dalglish

“Watcher, alone you conquered this city. Thren, alone you built the Spider Guild into an empire. Alone, I will outshine you all. This will be the crown upon my legacy, forged with your bones and painted with your blood.”

-A Dance of Chaos, David Dalglish

This is it, the 6th and final book in David Dalglish’s Shadowdance Series. Muzien have controlled all of Veldaren, most of the thief guilds have pledged their allegiance to the Sun Guild. Unfortunately for Muzien, there are those who still deny the Guild and will stop at nothing to see it crumble.

Well what can one expect when reading the end of a series? high octane action, gripping drama, explosions, wars, epic battles? Fortunately for A Dance of Chaos it has everything to create a fitting finale. It is as the title says it is, it’s chaotic but in a good way. The action never stops and the story keeps developing.

You get what you have been getting the past few books which are imaginatively written fight sequences. From duels of swords to magical RPGesque battle sequences. All of it were great and it is really one of the strongest selling point of this whole series.

All of major characters from the past books have a part to play, specially one that was sorely missed from A Dance of Ghost, Deathmask and The Ash Guild. Ever since his début in A Dance of Blades, Deathmask has been one of if not the coolest character in the series. This time he’s got a lot to do and when he fights, he does not disappoint. Major character development were also done with Thren and Hearn. As both are fighting very similar inner battles as Muzien wants Thren to cement his legacy and Thren wanting Hearn to cement his.

More characters such as Alyssa, Zusa and our favourite a-hole Victor were also given a substantial amount of work as some of them have their own plot though not as engaging as Hearn’s it was still intriguing to say the least. Nathaniel has been developed substantially as Karak continues to work his way into his mind having a huge impact in the story but the most impressively written character is Muzien. Muzien showed how great of a leader he is in A Dance of Ghost, here he shows how great of a fighter he is. You can tell that Dalglish invested a lot of time with this guy to make him the ultimate bad guy and to Dalglish’s credit it paid of. Muzien was believable in every aspect that he possess. You believed that this elf, conquered the city, that he might be a god amongst men.

As much as this is a great finale, there are some elements here that felt random. Such as a zombie army as well as an Orc army that came literally out of nowhere. Though little details as those did not take me out as they still produced a page turner of a book.

All in all, A Dance of Chaos is a satisfying finale for the series and it’s highly recommended to those who are familiar with the series. If you’re not then start from the very start as it’s an epic and rewarding journey.

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Review: Mistborn, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

The Lord Ruler is dead and his 1000 year tyrannical reign has ended. Elend Venture is now king of Luthadel. Unfortunately for Elend the Kingdom is already in an impending siege as not one but two armies have camped outside the city ready to attack at any moment.

After reading The Final Empire I was excited to read The Well of Ascension. Needless to say, Well of Ascension had a lot of promise as it started of strong. Vin, our heroine, is once again kicking ass, flipping and running through the mist and just become an all around badass. Our likeable thieving crew is also back as Dockson, Breeze, Ham, Clubs and Spook are now in a different position as they were before as they are now a part of Elend Venture’s council. Together they try to make the city a better place. The real concern now is the two armies camped outside the city and unfortunately most part of the book revolves around this plot.

Why is that a bad thing you might ask? at 800 pages one might think that the book would be full of intriguing content, however the second act tremendously slows down as it is filled with sub plots you might not really care about. Unfortunately this part of the book drags a bit too long and it might take the reader away from the real story, which is the impending siege.

The good thing though are the characters writing. Vin is strongly written as most of the time she’s presented as a strong authority. A force to be reckoned with. Newer characters such as Zane and Tindwyl are interesting and given enough back story to make the reader pay them attention as much as the returning characters. Sazed is another character with excellent character development as he is given a lot of content. That said, Kelsier’s charm is still sorely missed as I myself have never been impressed with Elend Venture’s character and it does not help when several characters of the book feels the same way.

The action is great and the 3rd act picks up with one of the most unforgettable climax I’ve ever read. Overall The Well of Ascension did not live up to the expectations led by the first book but it does enough to keep you interested and leave you wanting to read the third book.

Rating:3/5