Book Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu

The Deep by Alma Katsu

Rating:  ★★★

The Deep is a dark fantasy that explores the sinking of both the Titanic, and it’s sister ship the Brittanic.  We follow several characters but primarily we follow the story of one of the ship’s maids, Annie Hebley.

The story is told in two timelines, following the past of events on the Titanic prior to its sinking, and the current events leading up to the sinking of the Britannic.  The transition between the two timelines felt very natural with flashbacks seeming to come to Annie and leading us on to another piece of the Titanic’s history.

Technically speaking, I think Katsu writes very well.  Things never felt awkward or overly descriptive.  All the scenes were clear with no confusion about the action taking place in the scene.  However I often felt like there was a lot of unnecessary filler content when it came to the Titanic’s timeline.

There were many characters that held view points that didn’t seem so out of place while reading, but in retrospect, knowing where the story was going and seeing the whole picture, felt a little wasted.  I feel bad saying that because a couple of the unnecessary POVs were some of my favorite characters.  I just think ultimately the novel would have benefited from having a narrower focus on Catherine, Mark, and Annie’s story.

There is a mystery at the core of The Deep: who is Annie?  What happened in her past that led her to leave home and board the ship in the first place?  Who is Mark and what is he hiding?  How are all of these things connected?

It’s a mystery that doesn’t disappoint and I genuinely think that if I hadn’t had to trudge through some of those other POVs to get at the heart of it, I would have given this book a higher rating.

In the end, it’s not a bad book, worth checking out if the topic is of interest to you.  The Deep can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for supplying an electronic copy of this book for review.

Book Review: A Little Hatred (Age of Madness #1) by Joe Abercrombie

A Little Hatred Age Of Madness Joe Abercrombie

Rating:  ★★★1/2

Here’s a review I never expected to write.  This is my first Abercrombie, and if there were any of the fantasy greats I thought I might get along best with, but haven’t read yet, it’s Abercrombie.  His name gets tossed in with that of Mark Lawrence a lot, his books are described as grimdark.  I always had the sense they were exciting and action packed and filled with morally grey warrior-types.  Which is why A Little Hatred, sort of baffled me.  I went in with the wrong expectations, which is not really fair to the book, but that’s what I do.

I don’t even know how to tell you what this is about- mostly because it would take me too long, but also because there isn’t any strictly defined plot here.  We follow the lives of seven characters spread across Adua from different walks of life.  And while the characters grew on me in the end- at first I struggled with how very much I did not like almost all of them:

Rikke – One of the few I did like, almost immediately.  She has fits and what is referred to as “the Long Eye.”  The ability to see into the past and future.  Walks to the beat of her own drum.  Tough.

Savine dan Glokta – My reaction to Savine was immediate, visceral rejection.  I disliked everything about her.  I daresay I even hated her a little.  Something about her viciousness came off as fake, or trying too hard for me.

Leo dan Brock – Warrior.  But not the best warrior.  Young and Proud.  A momma’s boy.  Also a fool.  A whiny fool.

Prince Orso – Another whiny, spineless, gluttonous fool. Heir to the throne of Adua.

Vick – Another POV I disliked and continued to dislike, but can’t say much about here for sake of spoilers.

Clover – Another POV I liked at first.  An old warrior, dry sarcastic humor, cleverer than his betters- I got the sense he was a part of past books.

Broad – Another warrior and survivor of the Styrian war.  Liked him immediately, but failed to see what his contribution to the story would be.

I mean- when you initially hate 4 of 7 view points… It doesn’t bode well.  It’s grimdark… but it wasn’t fun for me.  I didn’t expect them to be shining examples of humanity, I just expected them to be smarter, cleverer, more interesting than they came off as initially.

I did grow to like them, eventually, but in some cases it took awhile and in some cases I never did get around to enjoying them.  Plus, the number of POVs crammed into a 470 page book was kind of overwhelming.  Can you pick this up and read it without having read The First Law trilogy?  Yeah.  Do I recommend it?  Not particularly.  I felt like if I’d read The First Law I would have enjoyed or appreciated this much more.

The second thing that threw me off was the inclusion of industry and manufacturing.  This I had been warned about from various reviews… But it still felt like an odd mix for me.  Sword fights and industry.  By the time industry comes into the history pages of the real world, guns have been around a long time, and multiple wars have been fought using them.  The battles felt medievalish while the cities felt more like the late 1800s.  It just didn’t work for me.

Now towards the middle of the book, where we work up to what very much feels like the climax, I was invested.  The characters had grown on me a little, I’d had a lot of the world building figured out, the action was picking up and it was written well. But again, I had a really bad feeling following all that action because it seemed to come to a complete stop so we could watch all the romances in the book disintegrate. *eye roll*

The pacing in this book was all over the place.  Boring, Exciting, More Boredom, Brilliant Ending.  And what’s more, I didn’t feel like any of those 100+ pages between Exciting and Brilliant Ending were really necessary.  I skim read a lot of it.  I still didn’t care enough about the characters to want to read that much of their inner monologues or see how they interacted at diplomacy parties.

I’m sorry okay?!  I know most reviews I’ve seen have been glowing, and those readers aren’t wrong.  Abercrombie’s writing is perfect.  Truly some his lines had me grinning ear-to-ear.  But his structure and pacing and character building often didn’t work for me particularly.

I will probably go back and read The Blade Itself and see if that book agrees with me more.  I mean, who doesn’t want to read about about a guy called the Bloody Nine?  He *sounds* like much more of what I expected in this book, which I hope will make me appreciate The Age of Madness just a little more.

A Little Hatred can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.  Thank you to all the buddies who read this with me and tolerated my moaning and groaning.  I’m sorry.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Spooks, Psychics and other Supernatural books on my TBR

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is books I’d give new titles too, but honestly, I’m not that creative.  So in honor of Halloween I’m doing a follow up to my post: Monster Books on my TBR, with a post dedicated to ghosts and the supernatural!

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – Rock star buys ghost on eBay and chaos ensues written by Joe Hill?  Yes.  Please.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman – Malerman wrote Bird Box, in case you didn’t know, and while I want to read that someday, having seen the movie (which is fantastic by the way) I’m not in too much of a rush.  But seeing that had me adding this- two teenagers find a house at the bottom of a lake and go diving, only to discover they aren’t alone.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray – This is less of a horror novel than others on this list- but it still sounds like a fantastical ghost story.  (And the reviews are really good!)

Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay – I keep seeing Tremblay’s name come up in conjunction with horror.  I also recently read his short story: The Last Conversation, and while I wasn’t wowed, I was intrigued enough that I wanted to read more of the author.  I settled on this book, in which a boy disappears and then a ghost haunts the town.  *Shrugs*  What can I say?  It’s got ghosts.  Good enough for me.

The Deep by Alma Katsu

The Deep by Alma Katsu – A haunted Titanic and a phenomenal cover.

The Possession by Michael Rutger

The Possession by Michael Rutger – This book is a sequel to The Anomaly, which did make it to my Monster Books TBR.  But it’s been getting rave reviews left and right and sounds right up my alley!

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz – Short order cook sees ghosts.  I’m told it’s a classic and the series is relatively good to start with.  Also I need to read more Koontz.  Somehow missed him when he was more popular.

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire – Haunted highways are one of my favorite urban legends, so I knew when I heard about this book I had to read it.  The one book I’ve read of McGuire’s was good fun popcorn horror, and I have high hopes!

Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House by David Mitchell – I guess you’re supposed to have read The Bone Clocks first, but I don’t really care.  Every nine years on Halloween- the residents of Slade House extend an invitation to an unsuspecting guest.  The problem is, once they enter, they can never leave…

The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining by Stephen King – I know I know okay?!?!  It’s impossible that I am a Stephen King fan and haven’t read this.  But I’ve started it like 10 times and the beginning is just boring alright?  I just need to read it before I see Doctor Sleep.

What about you?  Got any good ghost stories for me?

 

Book Review: Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo

INTO_THE_CROOKED_PLACE6

Rating:  ★★★1/2

I was very excited about Into the Crooked Place because the blurb was giving me strong Six of Crows vibes.  I guess they call this gangster fantasy these days?  While parts of it does feel like SoC, overall the book missed the mark a little for me.

The world building was pretty good.  Christo imbued the setting with seemingly sufficient grit.  There’s history.  There’s buskers peddling magic.  The magic itself I struggled with a lot.  It often felt like there weren’t any strict rules, some of it felt “hand wavey” if you will, which I occasionally struggled with.  Wesley “summons” charms from his skin?  There wasn’t a lot of explanation about where the charms come from or how they get their specific powers.

Another thing I struggled with, is it’s explained initially there is no new magic, so anything the buskers sell is somehow recycled or a trick.  But where was it recycled from?  Is there that much illicit magic laying around that 50-100 buskers in several different cities can afford to sell many of these charms and potions every night?  I felt like I was just supposed to take all this at face value.

The characters were all great and yet I often felt like I wasn’t connecting.  There was funny banter and wit and sass galore, a f/f relationship/romance that I actually did enjoy.  But often a chapter would devolve into the character’s inner monologue about their significant/desired other and that often took me out of the story a bit.  I think the story would have been sufficient with just Karam’s and Saxony’s romance, because that one felt relatively effortless, while Wesley and Tavia’s romance/flirtations, often felt shoehorned in.

The plot was okay.  It was high action, but a lot of the action could have been skipped without any detriment to the story.  There were several fist fights that felt like we were seeing them just to show how tough Wesley or Karam were.  There were a lot of training scenes.  It’s just not my favorite way to read action in a book.  I cared about the fights against the bad guys, not so much the fights and the training amongst themselves.

The other thing I want to note- I finished this on Saturday, less than a week ago.  And I am struggling to remember lots of the details.  It wasn’t an unenjoyable experience, but it simply wasn’t that memorable.

Into the Crooked Place released on October 8, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher for sending a copy in exchange for a review.

Book Discussion: Authors that have been on my TBR for way too long

I don’t know about you- but I have quite a few authors with multiple books on my TBR that have been there forever.  I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m so hesitant to jump in and wondering if it’s just that I don’t know where to start.  I’m enlisting your help to get me started on some of these books!  Let me know if there’s one that’s better than the others or books that make for good introductions to these authors and their worlds.

Robert Jackson Bennett – Everything he writes sounds exactly like something I need in my life.  I even own his Divine Cities omnibus.  Still haven’t read him.

Chuck Wendig – I think I actually have read a short story by Wendig, and that was what put him on my radar initially, but I never ended up committing to any of his novels.  Now Wanderers is coming in July, and I’m positively giddy with excitement because it sounds epic.

Neal Stephenson – I see Stephenson’s books everywhere.  But I feel like people are pretty mixed on whether they like them or not.  To top it off, from what I understand, his books are all like 800+ pages long.  Where is the best place to start?!

Claire North – The book she’s probably most recognized for is The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, but for some reason that book doesn’t appeal to me so much.  These others  do.

Nancy Kress – Let’s be clear.  I want to read all the Nancy Kress books.  I don’t know if it’s her beautiful covers, or the descriptions or the possibilities for discussion, but every time one of her books pops up in my GoodReads feed. I add it.  Please, someone tell me where to start!

Joe Abercrombie – This is perhaps the most embarrassing one to admit to, because I love dark fiction and everyone recommends him as one of the top grimdark authors.  I think his blurbs are not doing his books justice.  Every time I look at one of them it turns into a TL;DR.  But now he has a new one coming out and I really just need to get on the bandwagon.

Other authors I need recommendations for: Brandon Sanderson (I know, I know), John Scalzi, and Richard Morgan.  Have you read any of these authors?  Can you tell me a good place to start?  Do you have any authors that have been on your TBR for way too long?

Book Review: Moon Rising (Luna #3) by Ian McDonald

I’ll apologize, I haven’t been posting consistently.  To be honest, I haven’t been reading a whole lot.  Last year by April I’d probably read 25-30 books.  This year I’ve read 23 things, 3 of which were graphic novels and 5 of which were short fiction pieces.  I have a feeling I won’t make it to my usual goal of 100 books this year, and that’s okay.

I’ve been working on my own novel- which I’ve just about completed a second draft of, and I’m so excited to be putting finishing touches on it.  It’s more or less become my second child (third if we’re counting the dog).  On a side note, if any of my wonderful book buddies would be interested in beta reading even a portion of it, let me know!

Anyway, onto this week’s review: Moon Rising (Luna #3) by Ian McDonald.

Luna Moon Rising Ian McDonald

Rating:  ★★★★

The Cortas are the most egocentric, narcissistic, arrogant – outright weird – pack of fucks I have ever met.

These books have come up a few times on this blog, particularly in my Top Ten Tuesday posts, because it’s one of my favorite series.  It’s epic on the scale of Game of Thrones, gory on the scale of Stephen King, clever on the scale of Kaz Brekker, and diverse to boot.  I recommend this series every chance I get.

But that isn’t to say the books aren’t without their flaws.  There are definitely some things I would have liked tightened up.  The primary one being the amount of reading between the lines that’s needed to fully grasp these books.  I happened to read this with buddies, who were wonderfully patient with me, and I like to think I would have understood better if my time wasn’t so stretched and I could really sit down and pay attention, but the truth is you have to infer quite a bit of information from these books.  I had to re-read things a few times to figure out what I was witnessing.

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m really not that reader.  I like books that make me think about life, current events, philosophy, religion you name it, but I’d prefer if the events of the book are pretty straight forward.  This isn’t something I detract a lot of points for, because readers deserve to have books that challenge them.  (As an aside- another beloved series, Terra Ignota is written a lot like this.  Maybe it’s something I like more than I think I do.)

The second thing I would have changed is that, reading this, I felt like a lot of information was purposefully withheld from readers in the earlier books just to make them more suspenseful.  That does annoy me.  One example is Wagner and his “lycanthropy”.  It does finally get an explanation in this book but the explanation was so simple that the big reveal felt very anticlimactic.

Finally, there were some characters whose storylines I hadn’t really invested in in books one and two because their storylines take awhile to get ramped up and they never really felt like the focus.  Those storylines get some pretty thrilling conclusions in book three and I was cursing myself the whole time for not paying better attention to them.  Likewise, I found myself missing some of the characters who were more important players early on and sort of faded to the background here.

But in the end, these books are some of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read.  The world building is solid, and it’s never told in boring info dumps.  It throws you head first into this dark, ugly world with little more than a short dictionary to guide you.  The characters are whole and three dimensional, motivated by their own desires, with unique voices.  They’re colorful and vibrant and pop off the page.  I adore the “heroes”.  I love the justice dispensed to the villains.  I read the last 150 pages almost all in one sitting because the conclusion was so perfect, I couldn’t look away for even a moment.

I’m sad it’s over, but I’m excited to jump into another McDonald book knowing what he’s capable of, and even more thrilled by the possibility of a new series to sink my teeth into.  Perhaps most telling, is that I’m sincerely looking forward to re-reading them all when I have more time on my hands.

And every second I am away from them, it kills me.

Luna: Moon Rising can be purchased on Amazon here.

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info