26 September 2017

Review: Invictus

Invictus Invictus by Ryan Graudin
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Time travel is tricky. This is true of all books, but especially in the YA space. Invictus is a great example of this, where the premise itself of a time travel romance that could, in theory, unravel the very essence of time, just does not work. Not at all. The setup of everything works well, but the wheels come off extremely quickly.

The story follows Far, a person who should not, by any real logic, exist. Born to a gladiator, flying about in the future, he runs into a woman during a visit to the Titanic and it sets in motion a series of events that eventually put this timeline in danger.

Feel like you’ve read this before? If you’re versed in time travel at all, you absolutely have, and you’ve read it better. In the YA space, we have better stories like this too - The Ship From Everywhere is a key recent one, but even the countless multidimensional tales that are out there scratch that itch better than this does. I can’t really recommend this to anyone beyond those really, really looking for a YA take and have exhausted what’s already there. It just loses the plot so quickly that it’s not worth the time.

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Review: Paradox Bound

Paradox Bound Paradox Bound by Peter Clines
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I'm a sucker for time-travel. I was a sucker for Peter Clines's last effort, which did interdimensional portaling right, and when I saw he had a time travel book? Alrighty, cool, I'm on board.

The end result is just okay.

As a child, Eli meets a strange woman. She reappears a couple more times, the final time is when he heads off to some time-traveling adventures with what can best be described as American time-traveling hobos seeking the literal American Dream. The premise brings us around to some weird wheeling and dealing, some interesting characters, and a conceit in and of itself that is really strange out of context but works in the story.

The big problem, though, is that it's just very difficult to care about what happens. The book gets very bogged down in its own premise, and ultimately took me out of the story more than I hoped it would. The great spots - and there are plenty of them - are too often overshadowed by the problem ones, and that's what keeps a good book from being great.

Overall? A fine story, but not something that needs to be at the top of your list.

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19 September 2017

Review: Strangehaven: Arcadia

Strangehaven: Arcadia Strangehaven: Arcadia by Gary Spencer Millidge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With Twin Peaks done, I’ve began searching in earnest for books and shows to fill that void. Strangehaven is a comic series that came up more than a few times, and the series is delivering so far. This first volume introduces this quiet little town tucked away in an area that doesn’t appear to show up correctly on maps, with a weird cult in town, and with enough strange happenings throughout that keep you guessing as to what’s relevant and what’s not. The strange aspects of this have not materialized outside of a few small but important scenes, but I will say that I was absolutely riveted by this and had to stop myself from just going straight into the second volume.

Very solid read, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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Review: Summer of 1840: On the Shores of Singletary...

Summer of 1840: On the Shores of Singletary... Summer of 1840: On the Shores of Singletary... by Arthur L. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book by a local author in these parts, and has some local interest.

Summer of 1840 is an interesting historical romance combining the author’s love of old dance and the history of the Millbury/Sutton region to bring together a story that has a lot of Easter eggs for local readers while telling a fairly engaging love story along the way. Self-published, it’s been given a good editorial eye and the overall package is pretty great, and I really have few complaints about the whole thing. More critically, the story itself does take a little time to ramp up, but things feel otherwise realistic and a lot of the historical notesline up (and are meticulously researched).

If you have interest in local New England history and are looking for something a little lighter, this is a book that will fill that particular niche. It’s one I started out fairly skeptical on and ended up finding pretty readable and compelling. Ultimately closer to a 3.5.

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Review: The Last Kid Left

The Last Kid Left The Last Kid Left by Rosecrans Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a low tolerance for murder mysteries and for literary fiction a lot of the time, so a book that effectively does both? I took a flier on this mostly because Jeff VanderMeer recommended it on Twitter, and I’m honestly glad that I spent some time with this.

There are a few aspects to this story – the kid implicated in the murder of two people, the teen girl embarking on a webcam career, and the small town stuff that invariably goes along with such a circus. The book is deliberate in unraveling all the implications and information, provides some interesting characters in the media to sharpen the edges, and provides some answers while offering new questions as well.

There’s a very Tom Perretta-esque feel to this, although this specific book feels a lot darker. There’s definitely meant to be a sort of introspective look here on media and kids in the modern day, and I’m not sure how well it hits the mark, but the full book was still extremely engaging and compelling, and that’s basically what I was seeking out here.

Definitely recommended, closer to a 4.5.

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Review: Sloppy Firsts

Sloppy Firsts Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve had this on my Kindle seemingly forever, and I’m actually familiar with the lead character through the middle grade series (which is basically the opposite of most adults), and a friend said it was one of her favorite series, so I dove in. This was written quite a while ago, and would likely slot in high-YA/new adult today, but that’s fine.

It essentially follows the year in the life of Jessica Darling, high school student, dealing with all sorts of basic high school drama. It’s paint-by-numbers in a lot of ways, except that this was probably a lot more revolutionary for its time. You’re getting the boy drama, the friend drama, the diary stuff, the whole nine yards, and it’s adult enough to not feel like you’re reading a young adult book, but has enough YA appeal to cross over, too.

I’m gonna stick with this series for sure. It’s a great diversionary read that ended up being a fun read for me, especially considering how little YA I’ve been able to consume as of late.

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Review: Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days

Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are two things that are true:

1) I generally don't like self-help reads.
2) I desperately want/need a "side hustle."

Chris Guillebeau provides a blueprint of sorts for those who are looking to engage in some side jobs. It's got a very "Four Hour Work Week" feel to it in a lot of ways, with a lot of hand-holding and "you can do it" affirmative-style framing. For someone like myself, who kind of knows the moving parts to doing some side gigs and has been stopping and starting on it, there's definite value in this book as a sort of inspirational text. Those who don't know what they're doing? This is possibly indispensable from this perspective in how easy Guillebeau makes it sound. But if you're already a hustler, there's not much here for you.

On a whole, this was a surprisingly better read than I anticipated. Good information, good balance of what one needs to make this work. No real complaints except its entry-level nature.

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