a turtle’s eye view – one of us by tawni o’dell

disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this novel from gallery books in exchange for an honest review.

sheridan doyle is a famous forensic psychologist and lawyer who is called on whenever the philadelphia d.a. needs a particularly vile criminal’s mind unlocked. underneath the polished sophistication, however, he’s still just danny doyle who grew up in bitter poverty in a dying town with a drunk father and mentally ill mother. when he goes home to visit his ailing grandfather, doyle finds a dead body and the discovery brings up questions about the town’s history, doyle’s family, and himself.

i started reading one of us twice before finally finishing it this time. i just didn’t care what was happening with any of the characters. everyone felt like a parody of the person they were striving to be and i couldn’t develop empathy for any of them. i never got comfortable with the juxtaposition of the different narrators and didn’t trust their reliability. tawni o’dell wrote beautifully descriptive passages but spent so much time on irrelevant details that i had to consciously tell myself to read each word. why do we need detailed descriptions of what each character is wearing? we get it, he’s prosperous because he left the town and they’re not because they didn’t; it’s not necessary to beat us over the head with it.

i wanted to like one of us but the growing sense of ennui present as i slogged through every chapter made reading it more a chore than a pleasure.

two out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – we are all completely fine by daryl gregory

disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this novel from tachyon publications in exchange for an honest review.

five strangers are drawn together by a psychologist who believes their stories of brushes with evil. not the evil that people are capable of committing against other people, but the evil that lurks just outside of our perception. the evil that is dubbed the paranormal or the supernatural or just the unknown.

martin never takes off his sunglasses, which is not only annoying but disconcerting. barbara is motherly and friendly and tormented by the messages that were carved onto her bones. stan is acerbic and both loves and loathes the fame he acquired after being rescued from the cannibals who were eating him piece by piece. harrison is a storybook hero; a children’s book series about a cop who hunts monsters is loosely based on his actions when he was a teenager. greta is a cypher. is she the haunted arsonist who is guilty of mass murder or is she, in fact, a piece of the evil by which the others are all tormented? these five make up dr. jan sayer’s therapy group. a place of safety for them to talk about what happened to them, to see that they aren’t alone in their strangeness, to come to terms with who they are and maybe have a chance to become someone different.

we are all completely fine is so much more than a supernatural thriller. instead of being monster driven, it’s driven by the five participants in the therapy group. their characters, who they are, who they were, who they might become, they drive the story at a breakneck pace. their fear seeps through every line but their strength does, too.

daryl gregory has written a great tale full of supernatural wonders and scary monsters but he’s also given us a story full of questions. how can we deal with the sometimes world shaking events that happen to us? are we better off shoving our pasts into a tiny little room and bolting the door closed or sorting through the events and trying to put them into some sort of order? is it better that we remain alone or would we be stronger if we allowed someone to help us with the sorting? gregory leaves the questions for us to answer, he does give us a hand with the monsters, though.

four out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – yesterday’s kin by nancy kress

disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this novel from tachyon publications in exchange for an honest review.

aliens have landed with the news that a deadly cloud of spores is on its way and will kill all the people on the planet. they know this because it has already killed all the people on two of their own planets. now they want to work with earth to help ensure the survival of both races, but can either side be trusted?

when i started yesterday’s kin i felt very lost, as if i had walked into a play after the intermission and was trying to catch up. once i got past that first chapter, though, the story snapped into place and moved very quickly. the science was very accessible without being condescending and following the personal relationships was very easy. also, i felt a great deal of empathy for noah, the main character’s son.

in all, nancy kress has written a very readable science fiction story that is well crafted and enjoyable.

three out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – the word exchange by alena graedon

disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this novel from doubleday in exchange for an honest review.

indecipherable: adjective. not able to be read or understood

i love the idea of language itself collapsing or being fraught with danger (see, for example, the flame alphabet). i love discussions about whether going to an electronic medium for stories (short or long) cheapens the value of words or damages a story’s ability to endure. that said, the word exchange was unnecessarily convoluted, unwieldy, and ultimately unable to sustain its own weight. i was left feeling like i was reading alena graedon‘s dissertation on the evils of technology rather than a compelling novel about the printed word and our interaction with it.

one out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – henry’s re-entry by welcome cole

disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this novel from caelstone press in exchange for an honest review.

i wanted to love henry’s re-entry. it sounded like an interesting story, the protagonist waking up in a strange place and then embarking on a voyage both metaphorical and real. along the way he’s learning about who he is versus who he thinks he is, reconciling how he’s lived his life with why he’s lived it that way, and trying to forgive himself. there’s snark, i love snark. there’s cynicism, i love cynicism. there’s the hero’s journey to redemption. but. oh. my. god. by about a third of the way through the book i wanted it to be over, i just wanted to take henry by the shoulders and shake him until his head rattled. don’t get me wrong, welcome cole is a great writer. he uses language beautifully and constructs paragraphs that are works of art. i’m definitely adding him to my “authors to watch” list. maybe it actually wasn’t the book as much as it was henry i didn’t like, and it’s hard to feel something for a story when you truly dislike the main character.

two out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – the here and now by ann brashares

disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this novel from delacorte press in exchange for an honest review.

even though i don’t generally read young adult titles, i added the here and now to my list because i thought the time travel premise was interesting and i was curious about the idea of a high school student living her life based only on rules of never. throughout the story there’s plenty of explanation for why prenna james and the others traveled back in time and why they have the rules they do. there’s decent character development for the two main characters but i would have liked to see more background about prenna’s mother and the hobo that ethan jarves (the boy prenna falls in love with) is friends with.

i’d never read anything by ann brashares before and this wasn’t a bad introduction to her. i finished the story in one sitting and enjoyed it. i felt empathy for prenna and ethan and i was able to suspend my disbelief enough to get involved with the plot even though i questioned the idea that the science of the future would be able to develop something as sophisticated as time travel but not something to deal with the plague brought about by mosquitoes.

three out of five stars

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in defense of re-reading books

i have friends who have never read a book more than once. no matter how much they like the book, the characters, the ideas contained within, they just can’t understand the point. “but you already know how it ends so why bother?” i generally smile and nod and tell them that they’ll never understand.

sometimes life just sucks, you know? sometimes it’s hard and scary and i can’t sleep. sometimes all i can do is sleep. sometimes it feels like everything in life is changing so quickly and i’m so exhausted just trying to keep up. there isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with the changes, and i don’t like change anyway. change is bad, very, very bad. and i have stacks of books to read; both real stacks and virtual stacks. all new books with all new people doing all new things in all new ways. and it’s overwhelming and utterly terrifying. so i turn to old friends.

i go back and visit joshua and biff because i know that they’re not going to be doing anything new. they’re going to say the same things they’ve said and do the same things they’ve done the last two dozen times i’ve read their story.

i drop in on georgia and shaun. yeah, okay, their world is full of zombies and there’s a giant conspiracy afoot but georgia and shaun and the gang at after the end times never let me down. i trust them to do the same thing every time i revisit them.

i follow harry dresden around on a few adventures, be they good or bad. harry doesn’t always win the day but he does always have the same morals, the same ethics, and the same snark every time i drop in on him.

i wander into any of a number of the lives written by gabriel garcia marquez. my favourite is one hundred years of solitude but i love his short stories as well. not only are all of these people alive for me but they are all going to say the same things and go in the same direction that i expect them to.

that’s the perfection of re-reading a book. there are no surprises. richard mayhew isn’t going to suddenly decide to move to new york. mary katherine blackwood isn’t going to suddenly go sane. and murder is never going to be anything but murder. the old friends we find in our most beloved stories can always be depended on – they’ll always say the same things in the same ways, they’ll always do the same things at the same time and in the same places, they’ll always love the same person, or perhaps betray them, and they’ll never change their fundamental selves. that’s something that life can’t do for us, no matter how much we might wish that it can, so we turn to fiction for the temporary comfort of stasis. and i re-read books when i just can’t handle another change, no matter how insignificant someone else might view it, in my life.

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