Review: The Word Exchange ~ Alena Graedon

word exchangeISBN ~ 978-0345806031
Publisher ~Anchor
No. Of Pages ~370pages
Links ~ Penguin Random House, Amazon, Alena Graedon

Books, libraries, and newspapers have at last become things of the past. Now handheld Memes allow for constant communication and entertainment. They can even anticipate our needs, dialing the doctor before we know we’re sick, or prompting us with words we can’t recall. Yet a few dedicated wordsmiths are still laboring on the final print edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language. But one evening, right before it’s released, Anana Johnson finds that the chief editor—her father—has vanished.

In alternating points of view, Anana and her bookish colleague Bart follow their only clue, the word ALICE, down the proverbial rabbit hole, into subterranean passages, the stacks of the Mercantile Library, and secret meetings of an anti-Meme underground resistance, racing closer to the truth about Anana’s father’s disappearance, and discovering a frightening connection to the growing “word flu” pandemic.

1 Thumbs-UpIt’s been a long time since I read a book like this, and I hope it will be a long time before I read another.  This is the only book I have ever read that by the magic page number of 119, I literally threw it aside in disgust.  To say it is a mess of ideas would be being generous, and I’m afraid to say I found it just to be a mess.

The main female protagonist is whiny and just downright annoying, coupled with her is the downright stalkerish alternate narrator combining into two characters I neither liked nor wanted to be bothered reading about anymore.  None of the other lesser characters shone through the pages either, and this would have been a redeeming factor that would have made me continue reading.

As any follower of my reviews will know by now, it takes a lot for me to actually close a book unfinished, but I found the footnotes and the sometimes having to refer to a dictionary to understand what the Author was writing about too much to bear.  In my opinion it was a very verbose piece of writing with very little plot and far too time consuming to be considered a novel.  If this had been written as non-fiction and a reflection on current society’s reliance on technology to the detriment of everything else it would have been much better received by myself; as it was it was relegated to the pile of books I will be parting with shortly.

The only saving grace that kept it from receiving zero thumbs was the cover.  I liked it a great deal and spent quite a time trying to link the cover images with the plot of the book.  I love the English language and the words that are no longer in general use, and this was what attracted me to it in the first place, however over use of the language was a big turn off and because of this I feel I really can’t recommend this book to anyone.

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Review: Women’s Work ~ Kari Aguila

Women's Work“So when most of the men were dead, women saw their chance to take over?” Kate searches her son’s eyes as he asks this. “Not take over,” she says. “Fix things.” It wasn’t hard to justify what the women had done since the end of the Last War. They rebuilt their bombed-out neighborhoods as best they could and tried to establish peace and gender equality. But small groups of men roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far. When a bedraggled man shows up on Kate’s doorstep one night, will she risk everything to help him? Does he deserve her help?

Women’s Work is set in a dystopic world in the Pacific Northwest, where women struggle to survive through sustenance farming, clever engineering, and a deeply rooted sisterhood. Kate and her family are led through a journey from anger and fear to forgiveness and hope. It is a compelling story that challenges all of us to question traditional gender roles and to confront the fragility of love.

3 Thumbs-UpI initially wanted to read this book because the synopsis brought to mind The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood, and the twist on this type of dystopian theme intrigued me as I had thoroughly enjoyed the aforementioned book.  Unfortunately, this one lost its way somewhere in the pages, and I’m still trying to figure out where this happened.

The characters in this book are, for the main part, all women and given the theme of the book I fully expected them to be strong and capable with none of the insecurities felt by their gender prior to the events that heralded this story.  I found them to be full of paranoia and the usual backstabbing insecurities that are rife in many of my gender today, and this was a total let down.  I enjoyed the main protagonist immensely, up to a point, but then even she let me down.  I felt so much more could have been done to develop the characters encountered whilst reading this book but, as they are I am sure that if this is chosen for a read of the month by a book club they will be the starting off point for many interesting discussions.

For me, the redeeming part of the book was how the characters managed to adapt to a world without any of the conveniences we know in our lives, it was almost as if the book were written from a historical point of view with people from the future populating it.  I enjoyed reading about the various ways they adapted things to make what they needed to survive, and also how their lives were very much dictated by the length of the days and the seasons.

Everything this book covers could have led to an outstanding novel if padded out more, and imagination were allowed to raise its head occasionally; however, instead of this happening the book comes across as being very black and white and reads rather more like a dissertation on gender dynamics than the book I was expecting.  Despite my misgivings about this book, the Author is certainly a skilled writer and I felt that I would have enjoyed this more if she had not tried to pack so much into such a small number of pages, 298 to be exact.

Although I would recommend this book to book clubs that are looking for a read that will spark a lively discussion, I doubt very much if I will be reading anything else by this author.

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Review: Imperfect ~ Tina Chan

ImperfectLife is harsh for Kristi. She’s the only Accident living in a world of Perfects. More often than not, she feels like a blemish on an otherwise utopian society. And her life is about to get worse. The government has arrested her adoptive parents and her brother goes missing. To top things off, Kristi somehow gets dragged into the mess and now she’s a wanted fugitive…

Troop is less than he seems. Teachers love him. Colleges want him. Students revere him. There’s even a hot girl after him. Life couldn’t get any better than this, right? So, why does he feel like he’s a devil in disguise as an angel?

5 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel for this Author, and in a reading world where the dystopian genre is becoming tired and stale, it brings a welcome breath of fresh air.

Aimed at the YA reader, this book is full of vibrate young characters, full of humour and life.  There are four main protagonists in this book and each is written with as much care and detail as the others, there is no skimping on character development from this Author, and this makes this book an easy read full of characters the reader can care about to the point where you don’t want anything untoward to happen to them.  The Author broke the chapters contained within the book into a way to tell the story from each of these character’s perspectives; again this works really well as through the telling of the tale this way more of the back story of each of the characters is unveiled, giving even more depth to what are already some very well written and three-dimensional characters.  There are romantic interludes in the novel, but this didn’t make me cringe in any way, as they are written in a manner that reflects romance in real life; they are full of all the expectations and tensions that can be felt in these instances.

As well as being a good read, this book can be seen at some levels as being a commentary of the current body image trend that seems to be rampant in our society; an image is projected of the perfect man or woman and people will go to any lengths to achieve this.  In building the world contained within this novel it is apparent that the Author has done a great deal of research, as the book is full of science.  However, do not let this put you off as the Author has managed to include real science, without going too deeply into details and making the intended audience want to stop reading.  Another great achievement in my opinion, as trying to get the demographic this book is aimed to read in the first place, let alone to want to keep reading is no easy task; this Author manages to achieve both with ease.

The ‘new world order’ that the Author uses as her locations are also very well written, and the attitude that is prevalent in this ‘new world’ causes chills to run down the spine in some places, as the reader reflects on the world they live in now and wonders just how close we could be to the chaos and disruption they are reading about, and an all-powerful government dictating our every move.  Again, like the character development, the way this world is split and divided is not throw at you in one large chunk, but a gradual trickle that appears when the reader needs to know this information; this prevents any reader from feeling overwhelmed and adds a nice dimension and flow to the novel as a whole.  With intelligent, sharp and witty prose the book is easy enough for any YA reader to understand without becoming lost and, at the same time, manages to appeal to any adult reader who may pick this up without insulting their intelligence.

I would highly recommend this novel to readers of all ages, and especially lovers of The Hunger Games series.  I will definitely be reading further instalments in this series.

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Review: I, the Provocateur ~ Vardan Partamyan

II, myself
I, the Provocateur
I, the Warrior
I, the Mocker
I respect nothing…
Come forth spirits
From the sunset
From the sunrise
From the depths of hell
From anywhere you dwell
I call thee – come forth
Come forth – cross my path
And my blade shall taste thy blood…

Who is the Provocateur?… The answer awaits…

3 Thumbs-Up

I like dystopian literature, particularly John Christopher and Hugh Howey, so I was looking forward to reading the latest offering in this genre, and this book blended the dystopian view with science fiction, promising a good read.

The book is written in the first person narrative and, like many others that are written this way it makes it difficult to give any real depth to the characters we read about.  Unfortunately this means that the lack of personality to be found in the main lead results in the reader not being able to connect with them early on in the novel, and had me feeling he wasn’t really trying to put things to rights in his ‘job’, but rather the opposite, he was just trying to stir things up to cause trouble and see how far he could push the establishment.  This lack of distinctiveness is not just reserved for the main lead, but bleeds into the other characters we meet, even the bad guy is pretty much a cookie cutter version of any other that we read about in this type of book; it’s not that he is badly written, in fact none of the characters are badly written it is just that he, like the main lead, has no qualities written into him that make him stand out, or the reader connect with either of them.

As much as I was disappointed by the characters in the novel, and their lack of presence, I was pulled into this world by the descriptions of the people who had no other reason to be there, other than providing background.  Their grey and fearful world did a great deal to make up for the lacklustre main characters.  However, the descriptive passages didn’t make me take pause and think of the world we could possibly be living in now, and I think this is because the action took place somewhere other than our planet, making it easier to dismiss the dark elements as being somewhat alien to our perception.  The premise of this novel was good, and I think with a little polishing and maybe a bit of fleshing out this would have been a great read.  The pace is almost break-neck and, maybe, this is the reason the back stories were lost.  I would have enjoyed this novel more if the pace had slowed down somewhat to match that of the world it was set in, which in turn would have allowed the Author breathing room for their character development and a little more world-building.  There were a lot of good ideas in this novel and, I would like to read some more of this Author to see how they handle other subjects; maybe this genre is just not their forte.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy reading sci-fi novels more than the dystopian genre, as I felt this lost its way somewhat by trying to combine these two genres on a different planet rather than stick to the one we circle the sun on.  It would be an interesting read for those who are maybe looking into dipping a toe into the dystopian genre, and one that would be a quick travelling read too.

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