Skip It: The Club Dumas – Arturo Perez-Reverte

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Summary:

Lucas Corso is a book detective, a middle-aged mercenary hired to hunt down rare editions for wealthy and unscrupulous clients. When a well-known bibliophile is found dead, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment. He is soon drawn into a swirling plot involving devil worship, occult practices, and swashbuckling derring-do among a cast of characters bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of Dumas’s masterpiece. Aided by a mysterious beauty named for a Conan Doyle heroine, Corso travels from Madrid to Toledo to Paris on the killer’s trail in this twisty intellectual romp through the book world.

Review:

So the other day I was browsing Amazon Prime and I noticed that The Ninth Gate was now available to stream. I remembered it being a bit slow and kind of confusing. Still, the movie came out in 2000 and I wanted to watch it with older eyes, to see if might not have a better appreciation of it with age. Deciding to do a search on the ending (which I remembered being the most confusing aspect of it) the advice I basically got was: don’t. Read the book instead because it actually makes sense. I figured this wasn’t a bad approach to take and here we are.

Good news: the book does make sense. It won’t necessarily help you with the movie which not only excises a major subplot of the book but changes the ending entirely, but it makes sense.

There’s also some good stuff in here about the history of books, and of book forgery, all of which comes in and plays nicely at the end.

The bad news: the book is, in many ways, just as unfulfilling as the movie. That entire subplot that Polanski dropped? The one for which the book was ultimately named? It wasn’t without cause. The book itself admits that the two strands are completely separate of one another; it’s only through Corso’s eyes that there is any kind of connection at all. It seems to be included because the author wanted to talk Dumas, pad the length of the book, or both. It not a little frustrating to see that story come to an end and realize just how anti-climatic it all was.

Adding to this disappointment is that the girl figure (both in book and film) is very much a living, breathing deus-ex-machina figure. Polanski certainly believes her to be either a servant of (if not the Devil himself) and the book makes her out to be some kind of guardian/sage too: protecting him and pointing the way so speak. It doesn’t add much to the narration when everything keeps happening (or not happening) because she happens to be at every right place at every right time. If something were to come of it it might be acceptable, but the book too just overall comes to an end and it doesn’t feel like there was a reason for the pair to have ever come together.

Really, the most interesting bits of the book were the discussion of Dumas, of occult books (most of which were created by the author for the story) and the discussions of book forgery. I almost wonder if a non-fiction piece might have been more satisfying.

As it stands, the book might be worth a pick up to read it for those reasons, but the rest is such a let down that it’s hard to recommend except for one scenario: you’re planning to watch the film. The film focuses on the quest to authenticate this one copy of the book. Between the conversations that Corso has, and the notes that Corso takes, you the reader are very easily able to wrap your head around that mystery of what is going on well before the ending which ratchets up the tension at the end because you know something isn’t right. Polanski, on the other hand, changes the nature of a key conversation and doesn’t have Corso make the connection and ultimately has has to tell the audience what was going. By then though, the climax is over and the tension is hurt leaving the audience wondering what was going on. Though the two pieces are quite different, knowledge of the the book immeasurably helps enjoyment of the film.

Verdict: Skip it. Its almost a borrow it because there were some parts I genuinely enjoyed, but I can’t in good consciousness endorse only portions of a book.

Available: Now

 

 

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White Cat (The Curse Workers #1) – Holly Black

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Summary:

The first installment in The Curse Workers series from New York Times bestselling author Holly Black: “Urban fantasy, con story—whatever you call it, read it” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Cassel comes from a family of con artists and grifters, all of them curse workers but him. On top of that, Cassel is plagued by guilt that he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.

When Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila, and what that means about his actions. In Cassel’s search for answers about Lila and himself, he realizes that his brothers have been conning him for years, and that the final piece in their quest for power is about to fall into place. Cassel has other ideas. He’s going to create an even more elaborate trap and, with Lila’s help, con a bunch of magic using conmen.

This “beautifully realized dark fantasy…with prose that moves from stark simplicity to almost surreal intensity in a moment” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is rife with the unexpected. “Readers will be hooked” (Booklist) on White Cat.

Review:

The back cover of this book has the following New York Times quote: “A noir thriller.”

It is the single best summation of what exactly this book is. Oh, it has aspects of urban fantasy, but it honestly more feels like a thriller with hints of magical realism than a full on fantasy.

For all the talk of curse working in this book, you practically never see it. This is a book of relationships: Cassel and his brothers. Cassel and his grandfather. Cassel and his classmates. It’s about how he interacts with them and how it all starts to change as he uncovers truths about his past. It’s very good. It’s very atmospheric. It’s very grounded.

It barely feels like fantasy at all.

It doesn’t need more fantasy than it has, but it also means that those that might really enjoy this book could easily pass it up because of the label, and that’s just not fair to the book.

That being said, the fantastic underpinnings are rather interesting: a certain aspect of the population of the world can “work.” They can change your luck, your emotions, your memories, or even your body. Its one of the systems that almost works on a karmic level: kill someone, kill part of yourself. Alter someone’s memory, lose part of your own. It’s neat and it’s neat watching the consequences play through.

All told, this is a great little thriller and it’s quite enjoyable watching Cassel put all the pieces together. It just happens to have a bit of fantasy added for spice.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: Now

Stacking the Shelves #13

Now that I’ve done my Best Of list, it seems to make sense to do a final Stacking the Shelves for the year. I have to say, there seems to be something about the month of December where I get book crazy. It’s been a little less than a month since my last post, and yet I’ve managed to acquire some twenty books in that time frame! And that doesn’t count one that will arrive in January and that I think I still have 3-4 ARCs out for request on NetGalley and Edelweiss that I’m hoping to get my hands on. Yikes. Maybe I should be sliiiightly more choosy for a while? My TBR pile would thank me 🙂

For the last time in 2015, let’s do this.

ARC

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My first unsolicited ARC. I feel all grown up :* It’s pure sci-fi, which I’m looking forward to. I played in the YA end of the pool in 2015, so looking to dip my toes more in the adult end in 2016.

DRC

There’s definitely a broad assortment of books in this group. In the YA camp we have The Prophecy of Shadows (Greek mythology-inspired), Daughter of Blood (epic fantasy), Seven Black Diamonds (faery) Burning Glass (romance/fantasy), Beyond the Red (sci-fi) and Flawed (dystopian).  On the adult side we have Submissive Seductions (erotica) A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God (Greek mythology based) and Masks and Shadows (historical).  It’s a fun mix. The books here are posted in order of publication date; though it’ll take me a while to get to Daughter of Blood. It’s the the third in a trilogy and I managed to pick up the first two for $1.99 each on Kindle and will be reviewing those first. The others are all stand-alones/first in series, so there is that :*

physical books traded for by me

I picked these up in a blog sale. These are all young adult except for The Forbidden Library which is more middle grade, but Django Wexler was an enticing thought. Becoming Jinn got a lot of love when it came out and others sounded like fun (angels! steampunk!). Given the size of my TBR pile though, these are definitely going to be lower on the totem pole for when I’m looking for something different to mix it up.

eBooks bought by me

Another hodgepodge of adult and young adult. The Strange Maid is the sequel to the just-reviewed The Lost Sun. Hidden is the next Alex Verus novel. The Heir of Night/The Gathering of the Lost are the first two in the Wall of Night books. These Broken Stars is a sci-fi/romance The Rook is a fantastical thriller and Tooth and Claw is a novel of manners…with dragons.

Twenty-one books. Twenty-one. I think I need to slow down just a wee bit. LOL. So. Have you gone as crazy as I have? What have you added to your shelves?

NEED – Joelle Charbonneau (SPOILERS)

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Summary:

“No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.” Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

Review:

I’m done with Joelle Charbonneau. Done. Done. Done. The Testing series was a generic dystopian rip-off series that was mildly fun despite its immensely stupid premise of “let’s kill off the best and brightest talents in the upcoming generation” as part of its weeding process.

This book however, ups the stupid to the Nth degree.

Warning: The next paragraph contains spoilers. If you were planning on reading this book, consider yourself warned.

The face of NEED is a grown woman with the motivation of a pissy teenager (her ex cheated on her, let’s go supervise a government sponsored project where we encourage teens to incite violence and kill people!). The project is laughably stupid (it’s so hard for the government to spy on other government these days because information security. Let’s figure out how to use teens to do our dirty work for us in exchange for a cell phone!). The parents in this book are absolutely awful (I’m pretty sure my daughter is an attention whore endangering the life of my son, let’s leave her alone to think about what she’s done with absolutely zero adult supervision!). There is pretty much nothing of redeeming value in this book. Okay. I don’t hate Kaylee the protagonist, but that’s because she’s one of the few decent people in this book. I also don’t hate the writing, Charbonneau is a solid writer with a good sense of pacing and I will say the story never lags.

But man.

I think this book is up there with Allegiant for me in terms of how strong my dislike actually is. At this point, I’m pretty certain I won’t be doing a Worst Of list for the year, but if I were, this would be the leading contender for that list.

Just. Ugh.

Verdict: Skip It

Available: November 3rd

Zer0es (Zer0es #1) – Chuck Wendig

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Summary:

Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. At a secret complex known only as “the Lodge,” where they will spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, these misfits dub themselves “the Zeroes.”

But once the Zeroes begin to work, they uncover secrets that would make even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist’s head spin. And soon they’re not just trying to serve their time, they’re also trying to perform the ultimate hack: burrowing deep into the U.S. government from the inside, and hoping they’ll get out alive. Packed with electric wit and breakneck plot twists, Zer0es is an unforgettable thrill ride through the seedy underbelly of “progress.”

Review:

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, or hell, if you’ve even looked at the title of blog, you’ll know that I more or less only swim in the fantasy end of the SF/F pool. For whatever reason, science fiction never grabbed me the same way that fantasy did. That being said, when the publisher reached out to me about whether or not I wanted to read this, something about it caught my eye and so I said sure. Fast-forward a few days and I was wrapping up the immensely disappointing Magonia and looking for something to read. I decided to read the first chapter. Then the second, and the third.

I was hooked.

I stayed hooked for maybe the first sixty percent or so, and then it started to lose me. You see, the first half is pretty much a cyber-thriller. Five people (three men, two women) start hacking at the “request” of Uncle Sam and of course, not is all as it seems. I rather enjoyed the portion set at the Lodge because this is when we get to know everyone. There’s a nice mix of personalities here, from Chance the likable guy whose backstory is ripped from the headlines in a Law & Order approved manner to Regan, an awful woman who does awful things for the lulz. It’s nice to have the antagonistic female character be awful because she can, and not because she’s a woman scorned. I like how they show the team slowly coming together as they begin to relax and trust one another and slowly start to unravel the mystery of Typhon.

Too bad I don’t like Typhon. Or rather, I don’t like Typhon in this setting.

The second half of this book is pure sci-fi. While the premise of what Typhon is is rather creepy (let’s just say the Borg might approve), the problem I have is that this book is clearly, clearly set in the modern day right down to the the music playing on the radio. We don’t have the tech for what’s going down in the book (or I sure as heck hope we don’t. I now see how this book could be paranoia fodder, now that I think about it) and so I’m finding it a bit difficult to suspend my disbelief and buy into it. I think I might have liked it a touch more had it stayed more thriller and less sci-fi. Then again, if he did, this wouldn’t be Wendig, wouldn’t it?

All told, I do think this is a very well written book and I can see why people love Wendig. His writing is fun and easy to read, he’s got a nice mix of characters that you want to root for, and the villain is suitable evil. I think people who dig science fiction will find this an absolute no-brainer and even with my gripes, I still enjoyed myself and think this book has some cross-over appeal simply because it does feel current.

I’m happy that I gave this book a chance, and I think you will be too.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: August 18th

(P.S. Between AIDAN, Talis and now Typhon, it’s quite the year for AI isn’t it?)