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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a turtle’s eye view – close reach by jonathan moore

disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this book from hydra in return for an honest review.

the most terrifying movie i’ve ever watched was open water. the whole idea of being stranded in the middle of the ocean, knowing there is nothing you can do to save yourself. i was curled in a ball through the whole movie and had nightmares about it all night. literally. ALL night.

that’s important back story so that you’ll understand my reaction to close reach. kelly and dean are sailing in the antarctic, trying to repair their marriage, when they hear a terrified scream over the vhf. it saw us and it’s coming back! what follows is a cat and mouse game between them and an unknown vessel carrying an unknown threat pursuing an unknown goal.

i really don’t like water; even bathtubs give me the shakes. reading jonathan moore‘s descriptions of the storm, the icy water, the growing terror kelly experiences realizing that the storm they’re sailing through is working against them made this an experience rather than just sitting and reading a book. i was actually biting my nails through the taut descriptions of the waves and the chase. moore is relatively understated about what the crew of the pursuing vessel does to their captives and that adds a further dimension of fear to the story. i’d like to say i enjoyed this story but honestly it scared the hell out of me and i’m going to try very hard to forget about it… i don’t think it’s going to be that easy, though.

four out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – jack strong by walter mosley

disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this novella from open road media in exchange for an honest review.

i have a confession to make. are you ready? here we go: i had never read anything by walter mosley before this novella. i know, what is wrong with me? the simple truth is that i didn’t know anything about his work, and no one ever came to me and said, “OH MY GOD you just have to read this!” i’ve glanced at his books on audible but was just never interested enough to grab one. wow, was i missing out.

jack strong was a great way to be introduced to mosley’s writing. the character hears voices but also has knowledge from dozens of different lives so maybe those voices are real people. how did he get those people inside of him and just who is he anyway? how can he do the things he does and who are the people following him?

it would be great if there were more written about jack strong’s character (or any of his inner characters for that matter). there’s so much more i want to know about him. mosley wrote a compelling science fiction piece that drew me in and kept me asking questions even after i was finished with the story. to me, that’s what an author is supposed to do and i’m sorry that it took me so long to find him.

three out of five stars

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a turtle’s eye view – the butcher by jennifer hillier

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

i started the butcher around one in the morning, expecting to read a chapter or so and then pick it up the next day. i ended up staying up until 5:30 a.m. so that i could finish it and that isn’t something that happens to me very often.

there’s really no “mystery” to this novel. jennifer hillier gives away who the killer is in the first chapter and by the second chapter the main conflict is established. the mystery is how the identity of the killer is going to change the people in his life. if behaviour is a question of how we were born or how and by whom we were raised. and if, ultimately, we can change who we are.

there’s a lot of violence in this novel. terrifying violence against women, but also the violence of finding out that the people you know can be something completely and horrifyingly different at their core and have hidden it successfully for their entire lives. and then there’s the knowledge of knowing that you can’t even, when you finish the book and vow to delete it from your kindle forever and pretend it never happened, pretend it was all just fiction. because sometimes things like this happen.

hillier took a big chance by removing the essential “mystery” part of the story and focusing completely on the characters and how knowledge is not always a good thing. she did a great job with it, though, and it elevated this story from what could have just been another formulaic mystery/thriller into a study of who people really are and whether we really know anyone at all.

four out of five stars

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