Book Blogger Hop: April 21-27

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

This week’s question is:

Would you stop reading a book if an element of the plot strongly clashed with your personal beliefs, or would you continue reading until you finished finished the book?

Answer:

Well, I’m more of a finish-the-book-in-any-situation kind of person, which means that I will even hate-read a book if I need to, to finish it. And most of those have been because they didn’t hold my interest. Obviously, I have also come across some books that had plot elements that I didn’t agree with – like books that put too much emphasis on religion, or books with blatant bigotry – but if I have started, I will finish it.

 

Review: Year of Lightning

Year of LightningYear of Lightning by Ryan Dalton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When 13-year-old twins Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert moved to a new town, they never imagined that the old house across the street could bring them so much trouble. Inside the old house, a secret machine with the power to pierce time has reawakened. Meanwhile, lightning storms are breaking out all over town. They’re getting worse every week, and seem to enjoy striking kids who just want to pass science class and mind their own business. When Malcolm and Valentine discover a connection between the house and the storms, their situation goes from mysterious to crazy-stupid dangerous. Someone is controlling the great machine, and their purpose is nearly complete. In a race against time, the twins must uncover the chilling plan, the mastermind behind it, and the force that’s driving the deadly storms. They’ll hunt a powerful enemy that threatens their town’s existence, and the only clues are written in the sky.

Year of Lightning straddles the line between fantasy and science fiction, in that the Gilbert twins discover that the strange meteorological occurrences happening in their new town are connected to this weird doorless house in their lane that no one notices. Now, I don’t know why this blurb says they are 13 year olds or why it has been shelved as middle grade, for the twins are 15 year old high schoolers in this book, which definitely puts it in young-adult category. Anyway, moving on – both of them are new to the town, escaping the grief from the loss of their mother to her sickness, and a dad who is lost in his own grief. Malcolm is the one who notices the weirdness first, and is a boy of action, but after one encounter with the mysterious owner of the house, he decides to back down. Valentine, however, is much more angry and worried about the town and convinces her brother to help her investigate. Meanwhile, the weather keeps getting weirder and weirder, and soon they have to bring in their friends, who were also affected along with them in a freak accident.

Now, a lot of the plot hinges on the ‘magical’ nature of the tech brought in from the future, so I would classify it more as paranormal than science fiction. There are also many other elements like the twin’s resistance to mind control and the ‘time shield’ that makes this a little out there, so if you can suspend disbelief and treat it more as a paranormal novel, it goes down much easier. Malcolm and Valentine have this easy-going relationship with each other, but it is also not like the are attached at the hip. They have polarizing tastes in subjects, and personalities, but they both share a fierce love for their family, as well as a stable moral compass. The secondary characters give the book much more vivacity in my opinion, though, with the leader-like Winter, jock-like Fred and the hipster-ish John (who is MIA most the novel) making for a nice group of friends. Then there is also the older group – Grandma Gilbert, Miss Marcus, Clive and Walter, who sort of mirror the current group and lend much of the assistance to them in the second half.

The book starts off slow, but by one-fifths it picks up speed and then we go charging into an action-filled venture with fancy tech, epic one-on-one battles, and the high stakes of an entire town’s existence. The canon for the future time was explained but I was not wholly convinced – mostly because I can’t believe they gathered that much information on their own and from a few spying ventures. Also, the fact that tech in the present was used to build future tech – a little out there, even for a brilliant scientist. However, in its entirety this book is a solid block of entertainment, so I recommend it for all sci-fi buffs.

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ARC Review: Sucktown, Alaska

Sucktown, AlaskaSucktown, Alaska by Craig Dirkes
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Release date: May 1, 2017

Looking for a great adventure, eighteen-year-old Eddie Ashford stumbles into a job as a reporter in tiny Kusko, Alaska, a place so remote that bush planes are the only way in or out. When the job and the place, which sits on the flat and desolate tundra and not in the stunning mountains he’d imagined, turn out to be disappointments, Eddie thinks maybe it’s time to bail. But three things tie him there: 1) Taylor, a girl who might be a little too pretty and a little too smart for him; 2) Finn, a new friend who is an all-around good dude but also happens to be a small-time pot dealer; and 3) Eddie’s empty wallet, which means he can’t afford to transport himself and his possessions back to civilization. Despite every good-guy instinct inside him, Eddie flirts with trouble as he tries to find a way home.

Short version – Yikes!

If you ever wanted to read a coming-of-age story from the eyes of a college bro-dude this is the book you can go for. Eddie flunks out, gets a job being a reporter in a rural nowhere of Alaska, and gets bored. To get back though, he needs money and so he does what a typical white 20-something would first think of – sell pot to augment his cashflow. Naturally, he gets into trouble and learns a lesson and all that. The message is clear – do no harm, do good things for society and all that. The only problem is the package in which this message is being delivered, which is not all that fresh.

A novel protagonist for this genre, Eddie is a typical horny guy who has only two switches – boredom over the lackluster town he is in, and efforts to get into the local hot girl(Taylor)’s tight pants. He literally only goes after her because she is hot and ‘exotic’ (multiracial for civilized folks) and while she wants to just be friends, he is determined. The way he views her as an object made it pretty obvious this book was written by a man (I actually never check a new author’s identity just before starting a book) – and I was particularly irked with the term ‘denied’ used instead of ‘rejected’. Let me tell you why it bothers me so – denied implies he felt he was owed her attention, while rejected means she turned him down. Which, to be honest, considering his lying and entitled self, she was right in doing at the start. He is creepy at least, and skeevy at most – even when he is her ‘friend’ he doesn’t stop his borderline sleazy attitude towards her.

And then comes the plot which is pretty predictable and boring. Honestly, the only interesting tidbits were the articles he was writing for the newspaper; his day to day life and the transitions from scene to scene were monotonous and choppy, respectively. He has a great opportunity to change his life around, and doesn’t realize until the very end. Even then, he is spared most of his consequences because he had done one good thing in the duration of the novel. Overall, the message is in the right place, but this is not a narrator you would like to read through.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Switch Press, via Netgalley.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish wherein each week bloggers list out their Top Ten. Now I am not the most picky person when it comes to reading, but I know what I like. That being said, if you want to suggest a book to me, maybe something that has one of these qualities, you are guaranteed to make me read it:

Complex world-building:

Give me a fantasy book with well-thought fantasy world, especially ones in which the problems the protagonists face could only be unique to that world. Imagine it in any other world – will it work? If not, probably not a unique world-specific problem! I like it when the world itself is an involved part of the plot, not something that just forms the background on which the story plays out.

Bisexual MC:

Actually I prefer any book that is written with a diverse set of characters, but if it has good bisexual rep, I am more likely to go for it. No points for guessing why 😉

It is a retelling!:

You tell me it is retelling of something, it goes straight to my TBR. You tell me it is a retelling of something I really like, like out of mythology, I will hunt down a copy.

Snark:

I love characters that have a sense of humor, and who can dole out witty replies and sassy comebacks. Sarcastic one-liners are also my weakness.

Well-developed relationships:

And no, I am not referring to only romantic relationships. I feel all kinds of relationships, platonic, familial and other should get equal measure in books, and be well-written.

Enemies to lovers:

I am not much for romance, but I am weak in the face of a good enemies to lovers arc. I can’t help it – and if it involves some snarky bantering, instant OTP.

Mythical creatures:

Any book can be improved upon with the addition of a dragon or two. I am not partial to just dragons, though – it can be any mythical creature like a phoenix, a kraken, or maybe even a unicorn!

Moral ambiguity:

Be in world-building, side characters or main characters, bring on the gray, yo! Nobody like stuff in black and white – that is boring. Our nature is a tug-of-war between good and bad, between desires and duties, so our fiction should also reflect that. There is no pure utopia or pure dystopia.

The pet survives:

Fiction is the one place where we can make all animals, especially pet ones, survive. So, that is like an extra incentive for me to keep reading.

Squad goals:

A good plot with a good squad, and I am ready to ship all of them.

And these are the ways to my bookish heart!

What are your weaknesses when it comes to books?

ARC Review: The Hunt

The HuntThe Hunt by Colin Lorimer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Release date: April 25, 2017

At her father’s deathbed, Orlaigh Roche came face to face with the age-old myth of The Slaugh; a group of soul-stealing spirits so evil that not even hell would take them. Years later, and with the belief that her father’s soul is still trapped in some form of the netherworld, she goes looking for answers – beginning a journey that leads her down a path to discover what really happens to us after we die.

The Hunt is a urban fantasy about Orla, a girl who had witnessed creatures called Slaugh taking her father’s soul on his deathbed. Now, a decade later, she is being followed around by changelings, who want her to help them out for something, and meanwhile, she is still searching for her father’s stolen soul. The main crux of the story is this power struggle between the fairies, the changelings and the Slaugh, and while the story doesn’t go into much detail about it, she has some role to play that involves her being able to help the Slaugh gain a foothold into the mortal world. But that is mostly conjecture on my part, because this five chapter graphic novel leaves me with more questions than answers at the end.

The mood of The Hunt is very dark and horror-like, and if you love Irish mythology, this one is a treat with it plumbing the darker undertones of those myths. It brings in the changelings as they walk among us, hidden but still dangerous, and not visible to everyone. Orla and her grandmother definitely have some spiritual powers, as they are able to cast spells, but nothing explains the netherworld’s connections to the family, yet. Along with this paranormal element, another concurrent storyline is that of the cops (or at least one cop in particular) investigating the strange events in their family, and the multiple disappearances of Orla throughout the years, and now the disappearance of her younger brother. The latter is important because he is a secret of Orla’s and her grandmother’s, as they did something that was hidden from the netherworld. Basically, it has a multi-layered arc and a pervasive sense of danger that hovers.

As for the artwork, it is one of the best I have come across for a graphic novel of this length. It is beautifully rendered and detailed, and the whimsical strokes of the fairies and the harsh and cruel deformities of the changelings and the Slaugh are both crafted wonderfully. Even the human parts of the story are done with loving detail, and some scenes just awed me with their lineart. It is, overall, very dark in the book all the time, though, so I can never figure out if it is day or night *laughs*. In any case, the artwork definitely has me in love and even though I usually prefer stories like these in prose (as they would be more detailed), I feel it works in this medium too.

Overall, a very interesting urban fantasy story with some delightfully dark artwork. If only some elements of the plot and the backstories were better explained, this book would have been perfect.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Image Comics, via Edelweiss.

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