Welcome to the May 2014 edition of WRT’s What’s coming up.
Boston. Pirio is helping her godson’s father Ned on his lobster boat, when they are hit by a freighter. Pirio is recued after four hours in the frigid ocean, but Ned is not. When signs suggest foul play, Pirio investigates. Strong language, some violence, and some descriptions of sex. 2014.
The Boston Globe calls Elo’s novel, North of Boston, a “murder mystery, an environmental thriller, and a domestic drama.” Apparently it’s a modern day story that just sounds old in the annotation. Pirio is the daughter of Russian immigrants, her family owns a perfume business(?), she has an uncanny sense of smell, she’s mysteriously impervious to hypothermia, and she’s kind of a wild-woman. The reviewer goes on to talk about a series of twists and turns that will satisfy the reader.
The review on Kirkus Reviews tells us right off that this is the beginning of a new series starring Pirio Kasparov. Overall, the reviewer likes the book and says that it’s “well-laid” groundwork for the rest of the series, but didn’t offer much more than another description of the novel.
Our trusty Goodreads commenters are the first to give us an idea about how people actually “feel” about Pirio. With an average review of 3.67 stars our of 5; most people are impressed that this is the author’s debut novel. Some detractors called the book “contrived” and that the author sometimes “rambled” on about unimportant things. But, to be honest, I had to go through 4 pages of reviews to find one that was actually negative. Many reviewers gave 3 stars, but still wrote favorable reviews about the writing, characters, and plot.
New York City, 1990. After losing his temper and severely injuring a coworker, twenty-one-year-old college dropout Jack dives into the seedy side of the city. Soon Jack is toting a gun and smuggling stolen goods—and uncovering secrets others want hidden. Violence, strong language, and some descriptions of sex. 2012.
An independent reviewer’s blog, LayersofThought.net calls this, the first of a set of prequels in the Repairman Jack series, a “fun, action-oriented piece of escapism.” Critically, he is not happy with this book having so many loose plot threads. His complaint is that most books in series will at least wrap up a single story or have a clear climax but that this book did not. The reviewer gives this book 2.5 stars out of who knows how many so it’s tough to gauge the severity of the rating.
Amazon readers give Cold City 4.5 out of 5 stars and some highlights claim that the book is an excellent introduction to an already well established and well loved character, but that, without knowing this character as well as fans already know him, you might not get much out of this book. So, hearing that, keep in mind that a new reader to Repairman Jack should probably not start out with the prequels of the character.
The website for Crimespree Magazine’s reviewer points out that this book has almost no supernatural elements (which explains the Amazon reviewers’ points) but that the book is still a great example of “pure crime fiction done at its best.” Quite conversely, this reviewer says that this book is a great read even for series first-timers and that, if this book is any indication of what’s to come, the reader is in for a “hell of a ride.”
In the poor town of Carp, New York, graduating high school seniors enter a high-stakes game called Panic. Contestants work through deadly challenges all summer, hoping to win the grand prize of more than $50,000—and to start a new life. Some strong language. For senior high and older readers. 2014.
The Guardian’s U.S. edition reviewer calls Panic “brilliant…fast paced and even when the pace drops, the plot still keeps you hooked.” Obviously we’ve moved on from vampires to dystopian society so here is another book to recommend to those who have liked The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.
Goodreaders have given 3.59 out of 5 stars but some of the reviewers are a little tired of the Hunger Games’ trope and are dubious that this book will truly be a “stand alone” in a world where it’s almost illegal for a YA writer to write a single novel to tell a story. One YA reader posted an entertaining review made almost completely from GIFs. As you read through the reviews, though, you see that teens must rate books with more stars than you would expect based on their actual reviews. Looks like the kids may be over the Hunger Games, Battle Royale, and everything in between.
Deseret News out of Utah calls Panic “well-written, unpredictable and entertaining.” This review is provided by an adult reader and mother. She briefly comments on the language, sexual references, and injuries that take place in the book.
Dragons once called Caithen home, but five hundred years ago the Empire conquered the kingdom and bound them into service. Now the dragons want Corin, crown prince of Caithen, to free them. His task seems hopeless—until he meets Tam, a seer, and realizes her powers may be his salvation. 2014.
So, right off the bat, from reading the joint review at Dear Author, I learn that the dragons in Moth and Spark owe a lot to Ann McCaffrey’s dragons in the Pern series books. So, keep that in mind when recommending this book. They did complain a bit about the world building and called it confusing because it’s supposed to be a Europe inspired world, but, unfortunately, uses place names that are very similar to the names of known places from ancient Greece. They enjoy the story, the politics, and say that it’s not as heavily detailed as many sci-fi/fantasy novels usually are. They called it a “romance in a fantasy setting” which might work for romance fans who are getting bored and looking for a change of pace but aren’t ready to give up romances yet.
Another reviewer, however, at GoodBooksandWine.com says that the book is very dense and that the author goes into great detail really setting the scenery. She did enjoy the book and says that if you liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell that you will like Moth and Spark. I happen to have really liked that book so maybe I’ll have to check this one out. She gives 4.5 out of 5 stars on her own scale.
Goodreaders give 3.3 out of 5 stars which is on the liked-it low-side of things. The most recent review spells it out pretty clearly. This reader DNFed (did not finish) this book 15% into the story because there was very little magic or fantasy and the main female character is unlikeable. She actually says that she “hates” her and agrees that that’s pretty strong emotion for a fictional person. I can kind of relate. I hated A Discovery of Witches but read it c2c (cover to cover) but DNFed the second book after 5 pages. While that’s totally irrelevant, I just felt like sharing. I’m pretty sure nobody reads these, but it’s kind of my job so I’ll keep it up for the typing practice.
Six days after becoming the first man to walk on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is caught in a windstorm. Though his support crew thinks he died, Mark survived and now faces abandonment, failed machinery, and a hostile environment. Strong language. Bestseller. 2011.
The Martian will be released as a feature length movie in 2015, starring Matt Damon, so it’s no surprise that Entertainment Weekly took the time to review the book. They give it a B on an A-F grade scale. The reviewer says that it’s “relentlessly precise” and has plenty of suspense. He specifically notes that that the book has more science than fiction, so that’s probably good to keep in mind for a science minded reader.
The A.V. Club’s reviewer gives The Martian an A grade. She says right in the review title that the books “makes the tale of an engineer stranded on the red planet gripping.” She also points out that the book does not focus solely on the main character, Watney, but also spends time on NASA and the spaceship and crew that accidentally leaves the main character behind, describing it as an “Apollo 13-style look at the organization in crisis mode.
Lastly, our friends at Goodreads have given the book 4.33 out of 5 stars—high praise! I won’t bother with any specifics of their reviews because the people who liked it…and that was almost all of them, REALLY really liked it. Like, 5 stars-why aren’t there 6 stars?-liked loved it. So, space nerds, science nerds, survival nerds, nerdy nerds, and book nerds should pick up The Martian by Andy Weir.
History of the clandestine program that brought top minds of the Third Reich to the United States after Germany’s defeat. Focuses on more than a dozen scientists who contributed their expertise in rocketry and medicine to help America during the Cold War. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. Bestseller. 2014.
The New York Times reviewer, who also happens to be a Hitler and Nazi scholar pens a review that basically gives us all a history lesson and explains pretty much all of the book…in detail. She mentions that the book is “crowded” in places and that the narrative becomes “muddled” when stories of various Nazis are told along side of the stories of present-day historians. I guess she didn’t hate it though because she titled her article “Willkommen” and not “Scheisse.”
The NPR book review “staff” (sorry, no individual listed) also provides an audio interview with the author. I didn’t listen because I was…well, I was busy trying to get this review post done. I’m only writing May’s reviews in early August, so yeah, I’m way past any deadline that may have existed. Let’s just assume that NPR liked the book though, because I’ve never heard them do an interview with an author and be all like, “Yeah, your book. It seems to be horribly written and completely irrelevant.”
The Goodreaders give 3.81 out of 5 stars. One helpful review calls it a “very readable book about a very ugly story.” Another reviewer says that although it’s long and detailed that it’s still very readable. Probably a great suggestion for a history buff or WWII enthusiast.
1943. Women from across America and overseas follow their husbands into the desert of Los Alamos, New Mexico. As the men toil on a top-secret project, their wives try to adapt to this strained, military community with its rationing and censorship. 2014.
Boston Globe correspondent Daneet Steffens reviewed Wives in February and praises the author for bringing to life a story about the scientists’ wives of the Manhattan Project. She does say that it may take a while to really get in to the author’s style but that it will be worth it overall to stick with the story.
The Santa Fe New Mexican book reviewer enjoyed the novel and says that it belongs in the canon of other such stories told about Los Alamos during WWII. She also comments on the unique prose style but it seems like she enjoyed it as well. We learn during this review that TaraShea Nesbit is a first time novelist. No star out of star ratings given to either of these reviews.
Our Goodreads friends gave the book 3.31 out of 5 stars which is sort of on the low side and, you guessed it, it was the unique style that really put off the detractors. Apparently the story is told from a first person plural style. One review, to illustrate the annoying style writes, “We didn’t like this book. We don’t like stories told in the first person plural. We felt this made the story unnecessarily vague …We felt that the author perhaps…” and so on. But those who enjoyed the book really enjoyed it. The ratings were almost exclusively 1-2 or all 5.
That’s it. See you in September when I’ve be telling you what’s coming up in June. Timeliness is mine!