Book Review: Limited Wish (Impossible Times #2) by Mark Lawrence

Limited Wish by Mark Lawrence

Rating:  ★★★

I think these books are just too smart for me.  I have zero understanding of the science behind it, and on occasion this just felt way too technical.  I’ve never taken a physics class and thinking about time travel makes my brain hurt.

It didn’t help that I was expecting a direct continuation of the previous book One Word Kill.  While this is another chapter in Nick’s story, it branches off on it’s own tangent, with other possible character’s from Nick’s future coming into play.  While it isn’t totally out of left field, it just seemed weird not to be given more of Demus’s story and mission, and instead be fed this whole other separate side story.  I was looking forward to getting more of that, seeing Nick and Mia finally together, and within the first chapter or two I realized that wasn’t going to happen.

There’s plenty of action and life or death moments, so the pacing isn’t slow, but my inability to connect with Nick as a character (and honestly just the 80s in general) left me feeling cold about them.  I think the action scenes lose some of their impact while the threat of cancer looms large.  These scenes also lost some of their impact for me with the introduction of the new characters.  I was already invested in the old ones, and being given more to care about just felt like too much across a grand total of 400 pages.  I almost wonder if they both wouldn’t have benefitted from more pages and more time for character development.

I did like the ending (although if I’m being honest, I didn’t understand parts of it, wtf is a time hammer?!).  What I enjoyed was the choices Nick made and what ultimately happens to our villains.

I think I will finish the series out when Dispel Illusion comes out later this year. It’d be a shame not to find out what happens in the end.  I did have some of the same struggles with book one though, so if you enjoyed that one, you might enjoy this more than I did.

Limited Wish can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Book Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

This is my first experience with Lauren Beukes.  The blurbs on all of her books sound super exciting, but this particular book would not have been my first choice if my library had had some of her other books readily available (Moxyland is the one I really want to read).

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Rating:  ★★★

Blurb (from GoodReads): In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. Curtis stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.

I wanted to read this based on the time period (yes to all things Capone era Chicago) and the idea of Kirby stalking her killer back.  I was hoping for something more like Peppermint:

Jennifer Garner in Peppermint

I wanted a thrilling cat and mouse game.  What I got was:

Ace Ventura Detective Gif

Except Kirby is not really as entertaining as Ace Ventura.  When the blurb says “hunting him back,” what it means is, she ‘digs through cold case police files, interviews victim’s families, and tries to establish a pattern.’  She is not literally hunting him.

The format this book follows reminds me a lot of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes.  The identity of the killer is known from page one.  The issue is Harper Curtis isn’t really as compelling a villain as Brady Hartsfield.  His chapters weren’t all that exciting.  You already know what his goal is.  He doesn’t do much to surprise you. There’s no mystery to solve.

And without there being a mystery to solve- there’s not much else to sell this story.  The House and the time travel pieces felt gimmicky.  *Possible mild spoiler* The Shining Girls are just normal girls.  They aren’t magic.  They aren’t destined to save the world.  Killing them is not prevent some all important wonderful thing from happening.  Without there being anything significant about them, the House just feels like a gimmick so that Beukes can dazzle us all with the circle she draws in the timeline.

Stephen Colbert Slow Clap Gif

Listen- the timeline thing is nifty.  Really, Beukes did a great job with it.  But when it didn’t serve any greater purpose in the story I was left asking myself what the point of it was.  Nothing about the House is really explained.  There are no rules.  Neither of the two (three?) MCs are particularly compelling.

Almost every other character was far more interesting.  The Shining Girls.  Kirby’s mother Rachel… I sighed with relief every time one of their chapters popped up.  I particularly adored Alice’s story, but they just weren’t enough.

I think I’d have appreciated this more as a science fiction mystery than a science fiction thriller.  I like it when books keep me guessing.  When Kirby starts discovering clues and putting the pieces together, I would have loved to have been kept guessing about these different clues.  How they fit together, what the answer is.  Have the House and the time travel aspect be some crazy weird twist that was revealed closer to the end than in the beginning.

It’s not a bad book by any means.  The writing was great.  And while Harper Curtis is not going to go down as one of my most memorable villains of all time, he’s pretty creepy.  There are a couple chapters that will make you cringe.  Sometimes genre benders work.  They feel fresh and new and exciting.  In this case the book waffled too much.  It wanted to be a thriller, it wanted to be time travel, it wanted to be an amateur detective story with the protagonist solving the clues, and the overall effect fell a little flat for me.

Anyway, I intend to try some of Beukes other work and hope for better results.  I can see that she’s smart, and technically a great writer, I just hope the rest of the blurbs aren’t as misleading as this one was.

The Shining Girls can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

 

Book Review: One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

I did it!  I finally read something else by Mark Lawrence!  Don’t ask why it took so long.  I don’t have a good answer for you.

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

Rating:  ★★★1/2

Blurb (from GoodReads): In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

I don’t know how I feel about this blurb… I picked this up free as part of Kindle’s First Reads program.  The selling point for me was the author.  For some authors, it just doesn’t matter what they write, you’ll read it anyway.  And despite the lack of Lawrence books in my read pile- I admire him as an author and as a person.  He was one of the first authors I followed on both GoodReads and Twitter.  He’s always helping out other self pub’d authors, and just generally seems like a good guy.

Anyway- onto the book.  I’ll start by saying I have no idea how D&D is played.  I (now) know it involves dice and a game master and the occasional prop, but I had a hard time picturing everything else. Is there a game board?  Who writes the snippets everyone reads?  It was kind of neat but I spent a lot of time going: huh? what? why?  I think D&D fans will get a lot more out of this book than I did.

Onto the science- anytime quantum mechanics/physics/mathematics was brought up, I tuned out.  It’s so far beyond anything I’m able to twist my head around, I couldn’t even begin to fathom it.  Much like the D&D stuff, I think people who have some understanding of it, will get more out of this than I did.

One Word Kill is super dark.  Do not mistake the protagonists being teenagers to mean that this is a YA book.  I think it’s anything but, and a lot of the topics here are things I tend to avoid in my reading when the setting is not historical or fantastical (drugs, terminal illness, gangs).  The antagonist is deranged and any time he came up I found myself cringing/shivering/shuddering.

I adored the characters and their relationships with each other.  They feel like real (smart) every day teens, just trying to get through their day without losing their lunch money or embarrassing themselves.  I think I found Simon the most relatable- he’s introverted, smart and straightforward in his dealings, but there was something to love about the whole gang.  They all had their own struggles, and one refreshing thing was that the parents are all pretty supportive of their kids.

The plot is twisting and turning, amping up the crazy with every chapter.  I’m not going to say much about it- because it’s better experienced first hand.  But I will say I did feel like there were some plot holes here and there.  The book is super quick (200 pages) so it’s possible I needed to be reading more between the lines than I was, but I’m not entirely sure that was the case.  I almost wonder if the book could have used a few more pages to make everything really come together and feel complete.

That being said I was totally shattered by the ending, and it’s always good when a book can make me feel something.  I am curious to see what this is all leading toward, so I will definitely be continuing with the series!

One Word Kill can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

Book Review: Time Was by Ian McDonald

I’m in the process of job hunting right now, and life has been super hectic, so forgive me for not being present.  I’ve done almost no reading this week.  I’m still trying to keep up with all of your blogs though so forgive me if I miss a post or two!

Time Was Ian McDonald

Rating:  ★★★

From GoodReads: A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers…[Then] Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their disparate timelines overlap.

Time Was is a quick little novella.  I feel that the blurb is really misleading though, and the actual blurb on GoodReads contains a spoiler, so I’ve left it out here.  While this is in part Tom and Ben’s story, it’s actually more about a bookseller, Emmett, who stumbles onto their secret and becomes obsessed with finding them.

Much less exciting right?  The buddies I was reading this with all agreed- we wanted more about Tom and Ben!  The romance was lovely, but it was maybe 25% of the whole book.

The writing was sharp, concise, and atmospheric, as is typical of McDonald.  He’s very good at forcing you to read between the lines, so at times I became a little lost.  Especially the opening, which talks about digging around in a dumpster in LeBoutins for books, because I was still under the impression we were in WWII… and some of the POV/setting shifts weren’t incredibly obvious to me in those first couple chapters.

Both the buddies I read with guessed the ending (I did not) and were disappointed with that.  There’s also the time travel aspect, which was not explained at all, highly unscientific, and left a lot of us confused.

In the end, the writing was great, and romance was wonderful, but we were all left wanting more.  We had questions we wanted answered, and were sometimes bored with the main narrative.  If you’re interested in reading McDonald, while this won’t take too much of your time, I’d still recommend starting with New Moon.  I appreciate McDonald’s versatility, but this didn’t feel like a great representation of his ability.

Time Was can be purchased on Amazon here.