Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Invisible Library

THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY
By Genevieve Cogman
2014. Paperback. 329pp. Tor UK.

Irene works for the Library collecting dangerous or parallel-world unique books. After a successful mission, she’s given a new, urgent mission and an assistant she doesn’t really want. Once in the alternate world, Irene and Kai find that Chaos has grabbed hold of this world and it’s up to them to fend it off while trying to find the book they’ve been sent to find. With some unexpected guests, including an ominous note about the worst, most evil Librarian of all, and some unexpected twists, will Irene and Kai be able to grab the book and get it back to the Library? Full of mystery and wit, the Invisible Library brings us on a literary and magical ride of adventure and intrigue.

This book was a bit hard to summarize without spoiling a lot of the major plot points and without blending it too much with similar novels and shows. It’s very reminiscent of the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, the Librarians movies and television show, and even a bit like Doctor Who. It was still pretty enjoyable, for all its similarities with other works. The characters are full of snappy, entertaining dialogue and even a few surprises. Even though it wasn’t as much of a page-turner as I wanted it to be, it was a light read, perfect for a summer fantasy fix. The final scenes that took place in the library (as opposed to in the Library) were well-written and enjoyable.
The main characters did frequently feel like the standard quippy protagonists, always ready with a witty response and witty inner dialogue. It would have been nice to have a few more surprises from the characters themselves, but they were believable in their actions. Not once did it feel like a character was out-of-character within the story.

I would recommend this book to someone who likes the things it reminds me of. If you’re looking for a literarily-inspired fantasy work that involves alternate universes and magical libraries, this is a good place to go.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Skinny Legs and All

SKINNY LEGS AND ALL
By Tom Robbins
1990. Hardcover. 422pp. Bantam Books.

Ellen Cherry Charles was not expecting to travel to New York City in an Airstream shaped like a turkey. Nor was she expecting to make the journey as Mrs. Randolph “Boomer” Petway III, but here she is. Along the way, she and Boomer lose an old sock, a can of beans, and a small silver spoon in a cave where they stopped to picnic (and enjoy the activities newlywed couples traveling across the US enjoy). In the heat of their passion, Ellen Cherry insists Boomer call her “Jezebel,” a fascination started by her father and Uncle Buddy’s insistence that she withdraw from art school while chanting Jezebel at her as they removed her make-up and extolled the sins of Jezebel. Little did Boomer and Ellen Cherry know, but invoking Jezebel in that cave woke Painted Stick and Conch Shell, two holy objects seeking their rightful places in temples of Jerusalem. As Ellen Cherry and Boomer travel to New York City, the inanimate objects (which turn out to be animate) begin their journey to Jerusalem.
Once in NYC, Ellen Cherry finds herself to be increasingly dissatisfied with her lot as an artist as Boomer begins to gain recognition for his Airstream Turkey. The couple eventually is estranged and Ellen Cherry begins to work at a restaurant opened by an Arab and a Jew across the street from the UN. After a rocky start, the restaurant begins to get more popular with the hiring of the beautiful dancer Salome. Ellen Cherry learns about Jerusalem from her two bosses (and much more in between) as she works out where she fits in life as an artist and as a woman.
Of course, the basic plot of the book is not the entirety of the story. The connection between these disparate stories is the Dance of the Seven Veils, a dance that requires the dancer to let go of the veils that blind humanity from its essential truths. The novel is divided into seven sections, one for each veil, and as the story line progresses, the seven truths are revealed to the reader.

When I finished reading American Gods, I messaged my friend, Laura, for a recommendation that had a similarly American-mythology bend. Tom Robbins had that sort of magicky-myth vibe, but didn’t feel like the same theme, or even same genre. Since this was the first Tom Robbins book I’d read, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but Laura has never given me a bad recommendation. This book didn’t rock my world like Snow Crash or The Diamond Age, but it was still very good.
I especially like Ellen Cherry Charles, particularly because of her frustration at her circumstances and her choices as a result of this frustration. She goes through an existential crisis very similar to the one I went through after graduating college. Where she questions her validity as an artist after moving to New York City and not producing as much art or gaining as much success as she thought she would in that hub of art and movement, I questioned what I really wanted to do with that four year degree I was sure was the right path for me. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret getting that degree, it was just very difficult to find my path just after graduation.)
At first, I wasn’t as in to the book as I wanted to be, but as the veils kept dropping, my interest grew. I was going through a bit of a reading slump before starting this book and while reading the first half of it, but once Boomer went on his journey and Ellen Cherry (which is a fantastic name) starts working at the restaurant, I was hooked. It wasn’t a thrilling adventure or page-turning suspense novel, and the esoteric ideas get a little heavy sometimes, but overall, I really enjoyed this book.

I’m not very sure to whom I would recommend this book, especially considering I’m not very sure how to describe it if I was to recommend it to anyone. If someone was to ask me for recommendations that sounded like this would be a good fit, I would recommend it, but I wouldn’t go around trying to convince my friends to read it.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: American Gods

AMERICAN GODS
By Neil Gaiman
2001. Mass-market paperback. 592pp. HarperCollins.

Shadow Moon spent three years behind bars, dreaming of the day he would be released and able to go home to his wife, Laura. Days before his release, Shadow gets news that’s even worse than his original sentencing: Laura and his best friend were killed in a car accident. On the flight home, Shadow meets a charismatic man, Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job. At first, Shadow is suspicious when Wednesday knows a lot more about him than he should, but figures he’s got nothing to lose and decides to take the offer.
The new job takes Shadow down some weird twists and turns, including visits from his wife and Gods old and new. As he navigates this weird world he didn’t know existed, Shadow must figure out what it is he wants from life now that his old dream has died. It turns out America has more to it than meets the eye, including an impending battle where both sides are trying to win him over.
With new adaptations of American Gods coming out, including a comic series by Dark Horse and the television show by Starz, I wanted to finally read this book my friends had been talking about for a while. I was also waiting for Wynonna Earp, also rooted in American mythology but in the Old West rather than Gods, to come out with a second season and American Gods seemed like a good interlude.

At first, I was hesitant to start this book because and I read Stardust, also by Neil Gaiman, when I was in high school and ended up liking the movie a lot better than I did the book. However, what I had seen online of the series was looking very good and well-made so this time I wanted to give the book a chance first. As of this writing, I still haven’t started the new television series.
I really enjoyed the characters and the settings, particularly while Shadow was adventuring across the United States. My family has spent many summers on road trips, so the locations felt familiar, even if they weren’t really based on anywhere I had actually been. There were also twists that I should have seen coming, but I was so caught up in the turns of the story I completely missed them. Shadow is a very good main character, well-thought out and easy to identify with. He’s just along for the ride, a lot like the reader, but then gets his own agency as the story continues.
I had trouble during the book connecting with Laura’s character, but part of that may be that Shadow himself has trouble connecting to her in their new life and the reader can feel that, even if it’s never explicitly mentioned. I wanted a more detailed ending of Shadow’s life after the events of the novel play out, but semi-vague endings leave plenty of room for reader interpretation of the events that follow the novel.
The main thing I enjoyed while reading, however, was the interweaving and acknowledgement of the United States’ history as a place for immigrants. Each old God introduced made perfect sense to me, since we brought people over here on boats with their beliefs, it made sense that their Gods would surely follow. It was a similar theological exploration of Gods adapting to new worlds as was in the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.

If you’re a fan of Americana mythology and things that require you to be at least a little superstitious to believe, I highly recommend this book. It falls into one of my categories with Wynonna Earp (the show, not the comic) as an exploration of American mythology and people who have to interact with it.

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Book Review: The Bad Beginning & The Reptile Room


★★★★★
THE BAD BEGINNING AND THE REPTILE ROOM by Lemony Snicket

Series #: A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1&2
Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Middle Grades, Mystery
Original Publication Date: 1999


Review

Read: 22 – 25 Jan & 2-22 Feb 2017

Summary: The three Baudelaire children are enjoying their day at the beach when they’re brought terrible news: their parents have died in a tragic fire that consumed their house. With that the first in a series of unfortunate events, the Baudelaire orphans find themselves under the care of the dreadful and terrifying Count Olaf. They soon realize, it’s not just his personality that’s dreadful: his schemes are, too. As he makes plan after plan to wrest the Baudelaire fortune from the orphans before the oldest, Violet, comes of age, the siblings must deal with changing guardians and Olaf’s schemes and disguises.

Review: I first read these books when I was in middle school, so when I heard there was a new Netflix series coming out, I decided it was time to reread them. I also reread them in high school when the last book and the movie were coming out, but I mainly remember the first ones. I still like the way Snicket narrates to his audience, explaining things to young readers without talking down to them. I look forward to getting to the ones I don’t remember as well as the first ones.

Recommendation: I recommend these books to people who like junior novels that don’t follow the standard narrative tropes. And, of course, to middle schoolers.


More Info

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

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Book Review: A Study in Scarlet Women


★★★★★
A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN by Sherry Thomas

Series #: Lady Sherlock, #1
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Mystery, History, Adventure
Original Publication Date: 2016


Review

Read: 28 Dec 2016 – 04 Jan 2017

Summary: Charlotte Holmes is tired of the constraints of a female in society; it’s a waste of her mind and her life. So she ruins her reputation to get out from under her family and society and live as a free woman. Unfortunately, Charlotte learns it’s hard to live as a woman cast from society, luckily she has her consulting detective alter ego to fall back on: “Sherlock Holmes”. Already consulting with the police as Sherlock, Charlotte sends a letter to Inspector Lestrade containing a suggestion that can’t be taken back and launching an inspection that can’t be stopped. As Charlotte finds her way as an independent woman, she must also find a way as the consulting detective.

Review: At first, it started a little slowly, but that’s true of the original Sherlock books and stories. I loved the way the hardships of being an overly clever woman in the era are depicted as being vastly different than those of being an overly clever man. After all, Charlotte finds it’s easier to be taken seriously by society as the genius detective Sherlock than the genius society-woman Charlotte. The characters were great adaptations of their originals, but I especially liked the changes that were made. Thomas made a few changes to every character without losing sight of their inspiration. So far, there’s no information about the sequel, but I’m looking forward to it.

Recommendation: If you like unruly women in a realist Victorian era and mysteries and intrigue, I highly recommend this book. I first read about it in an NPR article, which I also recommend.


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Publisher: Berkley
Edition ISBN: 9780425281406

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Book Review: Jade Street Protection Services #3 & #4


★★★★★
JADE STREET PROTECTION SERVICES by Katy Rex & Fabian Lelay

Series #: Jade Street Protection Services, #3 & #4
Genre: Fiction, Comics, Adventure, Fantasy, Favorites
Original Publication Date: 2016 & 2017


Review

Read: 30 Dec 2016

Summary: Everyone’s favorite magical girls are back, this time they’re determined to figure out who’s doing the bad things to girls like them. Now that they’re free of their stifling boarding school, they discover just what it feels like to be able to make their own choices, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a lot to take in, this new freedom, from crushes to fights to magic intrigue, what will happen to these girls (my favorite magical girls) now that they have power beyond magic. How will they solve the mystery and what will they do to stop the bad guys?

Review: After seeing my review for JSPS #2 & #3, Katy Rex sent me #3 & #4 as review PDFs and I have to say, I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait!! My comic dealer… I mean comic shop *ahem* hadn’t gotten my #3 in yet and #4 isn’t out until January, so I was super stoked to get to read the end of this series early. I was so excited I bounced around the comic shop and even ended up making this review 2016’s 50th review, even though I finished Snow Crash a few days ago. I keep recommending Jade Street Protection Services to my friends who also like magical girls and I can’t wait to see my friend Gage again so I can put them in his hands!! Provided he sends them back, of course, otherwise I won’t be able to share them with anyone else!! I am super sad that this is the end, but golly gosh was it a good one!

Recommendation: If you like magical girls and fantastic art, definitely check out Jade Street Protection Services, it’s easily one of my favorite reads of 2016 (and according to Goodreads I’ve read 68 things in 2016).


More Info

Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Edition Publication Date: 2016 Preview PDFs

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Book Review: Snow Crash


★★★★★
SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson

Genre: Fiction, Cyberpunk, Science Fiction, Adventure, Mystery
Original Publication Date: 1992


Review

Read: 30 Nov – 27 Dec 2016

Summary: One part digital, one part real world, with changing view points, Snow Crash is a fantastic foray into the future of technology, or at least the way Neal Stephenson sees it. When a deadly virus attacks Hiro Protagonist’s friend in the Metaverse that seems to also affect him in reality, Hiro finds himself in the midst of an adventure. Through a series of circumstances, he ends up teaming up with Y.T., a 15-year old Courier who also finds herself in the middle of an adventure, although hers ends up taking different turns than Hiro’s. As they race to find the source of the virus and its corresponding drug, Hiro and Y.T. learn a lot more about the universe and even linguistics and religion as they go.

Review: Once again, I’m very impressed with Neal Stephenson’s work, and even more convinced that my friend L.S. is a librimatical genius. It took me a while to get through the book since it’s so dense, but it’s a good density! I wanted to have a few days to reflect on the book before I started reading again, plus Christmas was there in the middle and I had gifts to make. I really enjoyed the book, even if I thought Y.T. fell victim to what I call “Actual 15-Year Old Riri Williams” where 15-year old girls don’t look or act like actual teenagers, but rather like simpler adult women. I still liked her, but imagined her to be more 18 or 19 than 15.

Recommendation: I recommend this if you like cyberpunk and other non-dystopia science fiction.


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Publisher: Bantam Books
Edition ISBN: 9780553088533

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Book Review: Welcome to Night Vale, a Novel


★★★★☆
WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Series #: Welcome to Night Vale, Novel #1
Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy
Original Publication Date: 2015


Review

Read: 29 Oct – 08 Nov 2016

Summary: In a strange little town in a strange vast desert an adventure awaits. Jackie Fierro, local pawnshop owner, receives an item that, for once in her normal life, unsettles her. A piece of paper that reads “King City” and cannot be set down or destroyed leads her to Diane Crayton, who she definitely wants to avoid. Now, to solve their individual mysteries, they must make a dangerous visit to the library, find a way to get to a town that is impossible to reach, figure out who the man in the tan jacket is and why no one can remember him, and save their town. Will they be able to? In Night Vale, anything is impossible.

Review: I first tried to just read the book, but it was a little hard to envision the town of Night Vale without Cecil Baldwin’s voice guiding me gently through this hazardous town. Luckily, he narrates the audiobook, so I went ahead and bought the audiobook, which greatly improved my reading experience. I liked the story of Jackie and Diane’s adventure, although some points definitely dragged on a little too long. The best parts of the story were when Jackie and Diane were working together to figure out what was happening to them and in their town. I really enjoyed this side step of the podcast.

Recommendation: If you’re a fan of wacky and weird, definitely check this book out.


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Publisher: Harper Perennial
Edition ISBN: 9780062351425

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Book Review: Cloud Atlas


★★★★★
CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery, Science Fiction
Original Publication Date: 2004


Review

Read: 10 – 27 Sep 2016

Summary: Six people in separate time periods, mediums, and lives find each other through the ages. Whether it’s half a published journal or half a video, they get drawn together through storytelling. A tale of human bravery, fear, and love, Cloud Atlas takes six people whose lives would normally never intertwine and brings them together with multiple frame stories.

Review: The first time I read this book, it was terrible. But then I read an article about how the US version and the UK version were vastly different, due to the UK version benefiting from extra editing. Since my original qualm was the editing, I borrowed the UK version from a friend before I left Ireland and found a much better book. I’m not sure if it’s how much I’ve changed since I first read the book or if the differences in the text are really that vast, but I loved the UK text. One thing that I loved more than the movie was the frame narrative. Each narrator finds the first half of their story predecessor’s tale and, as we move through the story, they tell their half before the next narrator starts their tale. The interweaving of the stories is so well done.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of David Mitchell, I especially enjoyed this book more after reading The Bone Clocks.


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Publisher: Sceptre
Edition Publication Date: 2014
Edition ISBN: 9780340822784

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Book Review: Kim & Kim #1


★★★★☆
KIM & KIM #1 by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera (Illustrator), Claudia Aguirre (Illustrator)

Series #: Kim & Kim, #1
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Adventure, LGBTQ+, Comics, Graphic Novels
Original Publication Date: 2016


Review

Read: 26 Sep 2016

Summary: Kim & Kim work together as “interdimesional cowboy law enforcement”, but when they take a job and get in over their heads, they have to deal with the consequences. Action-packed, snarky, and bright, Kim & Kim is a great story to read when you just need a good fck you story. A fast-paced, beautifully drawn action-adventure, space-travel story, Kim & Kim also has LGBTQ+ stories, without making the struggle of LGBTQ+ the only facet of the adventure.

Review: The official description ends with: “Kim & Kim is a bright, happy, punk rock sci-fi adventure that is queer as shit.” and to me, that’s a resounding endorsement. I loved the way it wasn’t about the queer identities, but rather about the girls’ adventures with a very large splash of queer. It wasn’t pandering or “this comic is LGBTQ+ focused”, it normalized LGBTQ+ within the adventure story very well.

Recommendation: If you like bad*ss ladies, sci-fi adventure, and bright 80s pop, definitely check this book out!


More Info

Publisher: Black Mask Studios