Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

[Yelena] "Does the entire castle's staff get paid?"
[Valek] "Yes." 
"Including the food taster?"
"Why not?" I hand't even thought about receiving wages until Valek mentioned it.
"The food taster is paid in advance. How much is you life worth?"
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder was a surprisingly delightful read. Here's the Goodreads synopsis: 
Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison...

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear... 
I think this is one of the best books I've read in a very long time. I mentioned earlier that I was surprised to have enjoyed it so much because the first 150 pages really dragged along. I actually think it took me 3 or so weeks to finish those initial pages! I credit this slow intro to the fact that the book is over 400 pages. I haven't read many books that should be that long and even though I like this book (and the series) it could be about 100 pages shorter. What really spurred me along were the character descriptions (even though Snyder doesn't keep the image of Valek in our minds well). Snyder wrote very rich, authentic feeling characters and the dialogue was superb. 

Yelena is definitely an admirable female protagonist. It's not often that I run into a female lead character that doesn't grind my gears. She starts the book off timid and scared but has an amazing arc where she's actually skilled with a weapon and can win a fight from pure talent and ferociousness instead of dumb luck (yes, this is shade to Stephanie Plum). And related to this notion I love that she never really needs Valek to save her. She always has a plan whether it's a good one or not. 

This book is full of excellent twists and turns, and I highly recommend you read it!

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Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

“And while a bald head and a looped ribbon were seen as badges of courage and hope, her reluctant vocabulary and vanishing memories advertised mental instability and impending insanity. Those with cancer could expect to be supported by their community. Alice expected to be an outcast.” 

Still Alice by Lisa Genova was a tough read for several different reasons. But here's the synopsis from Goodreads: 

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life--and her relationship with her family and the world--forever.

To say I "enjoyed" this book would not be an accurate assessment of my feelings. I definitely found this book to be valuable in the way literary fiction is. I learned a lot about Alzheimers disease that I may not have ordinarily learned like the sheer desperation the disease causes and the embarrassment the ailed feel. I honestly couldn't imagine being in a constant state of panic because everything around you has lost all meaning and context. So clearly my issue wasn't with the plot. My problems with the book lied more so with the writing and the themes. 

The decision to write the book in 3rd person was a mistake. If we would've solely taken this journey through Alice's eyes we would have felt more in tune with the story. I also wanted Genova to pay more attention to the intimate moments in Alice's life instead having most of the description be about the scenery. I would recommend this book to the literary fiction lover in your life. I normally don't read Lit-Fic but this was the second book chosen in my book club, and I'm glad I stepped out of my comfort zone. 
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Review: Nocte by Courtney Cole

"Don't ask, because I can't tell you right now. Everyone has secrets, Calla, even me. But can you wait until we have a fair shot, despite the secrets?"
Nocte by Courtney Cole was a very interesting read and not necessarily in a good way. But before I get into that here's the synopsis from Goodreads: 
My name is Calla Price. I'm eighteen years old, and I'm one half of a whole. My other half—my twin brother, my Finn—is crazy. I love him. More than life, more than anything. And even though I'm terrified he'll suck me down with him, no one can save him but me. I'm doing all I can to stay afloat in a sea of insanity, but I'm drowning more and more each day. So I reach out for a lifeline. Dare DuBray. He's my savior and my anti-Christ. His arms are where I feel safe, where I'm afraid, where I belong, where I'm lost. He will heal me, break me, love me and hate me. He has the power to destroy me. Maybe that's ok. Because I can't seem to save Finn and love Dare without everyone getting hurt. Why? Because of a secret. A secret I'm so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming. You won't either.

OK so before I say everything that was wrong with this book I'll start with why I chose to read it. So this was the first book my book club read, and I'm really sorry I chose it, but I'll explain more about that later. I was really drawn to the cover, and the price. The eBook was on sale for $1.99 with regular price being $3.99. As intrigued as I was with the price, I was apprehensive as well mainly because it was so cheap so I figured the author was either an undiscovered talent or below mediocre. More often than not the latter is always the case. 

What Was Wrong
The most irritating thing about this novel, besides the writing, was that it was all basically just a dream. It wasn't really a dream but pretty dang similar.
Calla is basically in a walking coma. She was so distraught about finding out that her mother and twin brother, Finn, died in a car collision that she tricked her mind into believing he was still alive. I'm sure there's a more intelligent word to describe her mental situation, PTSD maybe? 

Honestly, I could probably have gotten over the PTSD parts if the writing would have been better. Cole wanted to write a mystery, which was fine, I love mysteries, but she forgot that when you're writing a mystery you have to leave your reader bread crumbs, so they won't be overwhelmed and totally confused when the mystery is solved. When I got to the last 90% or so I was completely off guard. We went from thinking Finn was alive and missing to finding out he's actually dead and Calla's been pretending this whole time. There was no lead up to even make us guess that he was dead. I'm pretty good at guessing the ending of novels, and I had no clue at all. It was a very "M. Night Shyamalan" kind of twist. Also the dialogue was extremely poorly written. None of it sounded natural: 
My father's head drops and he stares at his hands, at the mug in his hands. (That isn't a typo.) "I'm sorry, Calla. I'm sorry that you think I've checked out. I haven't. I love you, and I love Finn."

I really hated Dare DuBray's character. Why do guys have to have British accents to be hot? I know in the next novel they go to England or something like that, I won't be reading the second book, so I guess that makes sense, but he was really annoyingly evasive and it didn't make me want to keep reading to find out I just wanted to throw the book out the window (but I was reading on my Kindle).
After reading 200+ pages of this on-the-nose dialogue and her God awful character descriptions, I'd had it and wanted my $1.99 back.
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