The Thousandth Floor

Man, that opening. What a hook. I thought it was going to be cliche. I thought I was going to have this shining example to hold up to say “Never try to hook your reader with this sort of thing…”

And then I read this WHOLE BOOK trying to figure out that hook, because it intrigued me. It worked really well, with this ensemble cast. All you know is that the character it’s speaking about is female. You don’t even know if she’s a major player. All you know is that she’s about to die, and you want to figure out who in the hell she is.

I’ll agree, no hesitation, with other comments I’ve heard/read about this book, that the characters can be pretty shallow. I think when you’re dealing with an ensemble cast and your book isn’t anywhere near as long as an A Song of Ice and Fire tome, you’re going to have to delve a little less deep just to cover the main storyline. Did I still care about the characters? Sure. They’re pretty fascinating. It all unfurls in a sort of soap-opera way. A futuristic soap opera all about teenagers. They all have desires and conflicts and different living situations that complicate things.

Everyone is a bit overdramatic, though it feels pretty authentically teenager. Throw in all the drugs and alcohol, and I have no hesitation believing it. There are a lot of female protagonists, which was great. Actually my favorite character ended up being the one male protagonist that we get POV chapters from. Watt, and his special friend Nadia, are fascinating to me. I think McGee ended up nailing that circumstance and those interactions so well that Watt/Nadia will be the reason I keep reading these books. The other characters are interesting, but Watt/Nadia were compelling.

While avoiding spoilers, I do have to say that the ending wasn’t what I expected, and I really wanted it to go a different way. I can see why it was necessary, sort of. And I’m not complaining that I’ll get to read more of Watt/Nadia since this isn’t a stand-alone book. But I think it ended the way it did because the author really wanted a second book (or maybe her publisher did?) and she needed to set things up in such a way that there was plenty to keep writing about. Except, I could definitely see plenty to keep writing about if things had gone the way I wanted them to, in the end, rather than the ending that was written.

Still, that could be the ending that was intended all along, and if so, it isn’t necessarily a bad one. There’s definitely setup for book two, and motivation to keep reading if there are characters in play that you care about.

The futuristic elements of the book were handled well, I thought. It’s a different sort of world these teenagers live in, and it adds a lot of interesting and compelling dynamics to the story. I’ll be picking up the sequel, once it’s released.

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Angels & Demons

I remember really enjoying this book when I first read it. I liked the fast pace, the all-or-nothing drama of the mystery that needs to be solved. Scholars saving the day is always a fun trope—Indiana Jones is awesome, after all, and I LOVE The Librarian movies.

Now that I’m older, I got pretty annoyed by the way Brown writes about the females in the book. I’m sorry, female, singular. Just one. Gorgeous and intelligent and for some reason SO eager to have sex with the protagonist when I don’t think he’s really done anything to warrant that kind of attention. I guess it’s like at the end of The Kingsman. An ending for the hetero guys, maybe? Cause I didn’t see why it was necessary, at all.

The writing can be a bit purple, and the protagonist is pretty full of himself and just conveniently knows things that no normal person would know. I mean a lot of this stuff isn’t even in his field! But it is a fast story and the suspense is good and the villain is sort of cookie cutter but not terrible. You can see the twists coming, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still enjoyable when they arrive.

I think fans of suspense and mystery fiction would enjoy these Robert Langdon books, and probably males more than females, because there isn’t much in here for females to relate to. Ultimately I think it comes down to this not being my type of book anymore. My tastes have shifted as I’ve gotten older and experienced more stories, and my MFA definitely changed how I read things now. So, there are plenty of people out there who would like this story a lot, but I think I won’t be re-reading it after this time.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Reading plays is always a bit strange for me, especially when I can clearly see the gaps where a really good actor would fill in all the empathetic parts and bring everything to life.

If you’re looking for another Harry Potter novel, you should just go read all the Harry Potters. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world again for a quick read and don’t mind so much that it doesn’t follow the same format and isn’t quite as tightly controlled as the original books—then you’ll love this. Maybe not quite as much as I loved watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, since we did that recently. But, still. Die-hard HP fans basically have to read this play.

The plot is, dare I say it, similar to the season finale episodes of Season 5 of My Little Pony. Time travel changes the world and we need to go back and fix it and we learn we shouldn’t have meddled at all in the first place, sort of thing.

Harry plays a somewhat important role in this story, though of course his son Albus takes center stage. I really liked that Albus was friends with Scorpius. It feels like fate, and closure, of sorts, though it creates all kinds of problems for the parents, obviously.

This is a quick read and worth your time if you grew up on HP like I did. It’s no Harry Potter novel, but it gives us a little bit more of that world.

A Torch Against the Night

Second books in a trilogy are sometimes lackluster. NOT SO WITH THIS BOOK. It doesn’t feel like a bridge between books one and three at all. This feels like an action-packed amazing continuation and escalation of the original story.

Elias and Laia and Helene—they are such beautifully-wrought characters. I can’t get enough of Elias and Laia, and getting to know Helene was supposed to be sort of tedious, right, because she’s all pious? Except NO WAY could Tahir’s writing ever be tedious. Every chapter was engaging and lovely.

The mythos woven into this story, the magical powers and legends, they build up at just the right pace. You never feel like she’s infodumping, and you always get the next bit just when you want a little bit more to keep you guessing.

Settings, perfect. Story, perfect. Well, okay. There was one thing I saw coming before it happened, but I think that was just because I was shipping a particular pairing so hard that I wanted to believe I was right about this other thing…and even then, I only guessed a small portion of what it actually was, and the greater truth was big and momentous.

All the feels, in this book. ALL OF THEM. If you haven’t read An Ember in the Ashes, start there, and DO NOT STOP until you’ve finished this one and are waiting as eagerly for the third book as I am. Seriously. Do it.

An Ember in the Ashes

OMG this book is frickin good. Wow. I LOVED it.

I’d heard a lot of good things, so I was excited about reading it, and I am SO GLAD I finally did. Laia is the daughter of the leaders of the Resistance, put in a difficult position, fighting her personal demons even as she tries to save her brother from death in prison. Elias is training to be one of the elite enforcers of the militaristic people who dominated Laia’s people long ago. Except, he doesn’t want any part of it.

Laia and Elias are SO compelling. They are fascinating and deep and have so many issues and so much messed up stuff to deal with. There’s a really interesting love square which gives you a lot of potential for different shippers. I won’t tell you who I ship directly, in case it’s a spoiler, but I’m in the most obvious camp. 😉

The plot is compelling and there are so many challenges for our protagonists to face. There’s suspense and beautifully fantastic elements woven in. The world’s history is released at just the right pace, so that you see threads that will weave through the rest of the story right when you want to see more of the world. I bet I know what book three is going to be about. At least, I hope it’s going to be about that. Though, I’m not going to lie, if Tahir wanted to stretch this into six, seven, even ten books…I would definitely keep reading. I love Laia and Elias. I love the secondary characters, too. There are all these questions I want answered, that I feel confident Tahir will provide later on in the story. The Commandant’s tattoo. What’s going to happen to Hellene. Who is Cook? (I think I know who she is, but the mystery is being drawn out enough that it makes me question it, and the whole thing is deliciously suspenseful).

I immediately picked up book two upon finishing this one. The prose is beautiful, the settings and world are well crafted, the characters couldn’t possibly be more compelling. Truly beautiful work.

The Da Vinci Code

There are a lot of people out there that love this series, and there’s something to be said for the pacing, the way the puzzles fit into each other, the subject matter that is accessible but complex enough to make readers feel smart as they follow along.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this many adjectives in a novel. I also would love more believable female characters—ones who don’t automatically fall for the main character just because he’s been around with them during some dangerous events. I can’t really relate to any of the characters in this novel.

All that said—I do really appreciate the attempt to spread knowledge about the “sacred feminine” from a historical angle. It’s nice to have something so mainstream talking about pentacles/pentagrams and symbols of fertility and goddesses. In that respect, I think Brown is doing Neopagans everywhere a service—if this helps change the mainstream narrative that usually conflates Pagans with devil-worshippers, then I’m in full support.

Fearless

I always enjoy Cornelia Funke stories. Reckless was great, and the English translation quality was excellent, as per usual. Given how much I liked Reckless, I was surprised when I read Fearless and loved it SO MUCH MORE.

There’s an absolute beauty to the interactions between Jacob and Fox. There’s history there, and emotions, and a complexity that just makes your heart ache with its sincerity and authenticity.

Couple these fabulous characters and they’re fascinating relationship with one of the absolute best, creepiest villains I have encountered in a story in a good long time, and you have a novel that kept me absolutely riveted.

True story: I was reading this on the train on the way home from work and got so pulled in that I almost got off at the wrong stop.

There are fairy tale elements in this second book of the Mirrorworld series, of course. There’s even intriguing references to Jacob’s past, similar to what we got in the first book.

Fearless is devastatingly good. Y’all shouldn’t take my world for it—go read it for yourself. Then come talk to me about that villain (you’ll know which one it is). 😀

The Return of Tarzan

It was fairly surprising to me, when I read Tarzan of the Apes for the first time, that Tarzan doesn’t pair up with Jane by the end of the book. Tarzan and Jane are just…always together, in all the adaptations and re-tellings. Edgar Rice Burroughs, however, keeps his readers guessing, and takes two books to get there instead of one Disney movie. 🙂

This book deals with the lost city of Opar, and countless adventures and exploits of Tarzan. He’s still a free man, unfettered and unmoored, traveling here and there with friends, getting set upon by thugs and shady characters jealous of his masculinity, prowess, and status as a proper gentleman.

It’s true that too many of the women in these stories are attracted to Tarzan. I suppose if I was a high priestess of a lost city that didn’t really have a thriving community and lots of men to choose from, I would fall for Tarzan when I saw him, too.

Okay, let’s be real. I would fall for Tarzan even if there were a hundred other guys in easy reach. It does come across a bit sexist, though, for women to fall for Tarzan at first sight.

In any case, this was an excellent continuation of the Tarzan stories, and tied up some loose ends that I wanted tied.

Fans of adventure stories will love this, of course, and anyone who enjoyed Tarzan of the Apes basically has to also read The Return of Tarzan. Really. You don’t want to end things at the first book.

The Martian

This book is as good as everyone is saying it is. I really want to watch the movie but refused to do so until I had finished the book. Only took me two nights, once I had a physical copy in hand. It was engaging, funny, suspenseful, and smart.

I cared about the protagonist, wanted him to survive. I mean come on—someone’s left behind on Mars because everyone thinks they’re dead, and this guy just keeps figuring out how to stretch his survival even further? Mark Watney does things I would never have thought of. He’s awesome. He makes mistakes, sure. But he keeps going. He doesn’t give up, and that’s inspiring and really cool.

I really enjoyed the way that Weir peppers in other narrative styles. We get to see the people of NASA back home, figuring out that Mark’s still alive, and banding together to save him. We get to know his fellow Martian mission crew mates, so that we actually feel something for them when they have to make tough decisions. And every once in a while you get a far-distant third-person omniscient narration. After the first time that pops up, I guarantee you will tense up every other time it shows up. It just can’t be good, right? I know something bad is coming. Something bad must be coming. Oh please don’t let him die, don’t let this new thing kill him…

Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Or bed. Or whatever.

I would recommend this book to anyone, really. It’s a great read, not too genre-y, so it shouldn’t throw anyone off that it’s sci-fi (though, if you don’t read sci-fi just on principle…well, you and I don’t see eye to eye). Now go read The Martian.

Four

If the ending of Allegiant didn’t make up my mind for me, that Roth likes Four more than she likes Tris, then this book surely did.

Frankly, Four isn’t interesting enough for us to benefit much from getting his side of things.

Was it interesting? Yes. Was it a quick read? Yes. What it kind of cute, seeing a few more of the layers to his relationship with Tris? Yes.

Would I recommend it to anyone to read? Maybe only the diehard Divergent fans. It was probably a good writing exercise, and there were some good details about Four that make you understand him better and believe that he’s got much more of a part in everything that’s happennig. So, if you were reading the trilogy thinking “I just want more Four!” then this collection of stories is absolutely for you.

Again, the writing is solid, it’s just the idea that seems a little lacking. Four just isn’t as great as Tris.