Monday, December 29, 2014

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

Review based on ARC.

This book has been quite the disappointment for me.  It's not that it's a terrible story and the writing is certainly poetic at times, but it took me weeks to slog through this... during the winter holidays, when I hoped to have accomplished much more reading!

The plot? Sounds so interesting... Jane is 15 and half-babysitting a little girl (the father is with them, but doing other things and Jane is charged with watching Lily) when the girl goes missing in the woods. Unable to move forward in her life whatsoever for the next 19 years, Jane obsesses over her failure and her devastation at the loss of Lily and the apparent loss of respect of Lily's father William, also Jane's first crush. So she spends her career focused on the same types of things that William (a scholar) also studies, and there is no surprise that their paths must once again cross. Where Lily was lost also happens to be the rough location of a lot of happenings surrounding (and the home of) certain historical figures (the Chesters, the Farringtons) about whom William and Jane study/research/write about/work in a museum about. This location also happens to be the rough location of the Whitmore convelascent hospital, from which yet another young lady, N--, had gone missing over a hundred years ago.

So right. You've got the two girls going missing, just sort of disappearing out of thin air, from the same location, and Jane who is able to research both.  So various ghosts converge on Jane to follow her around her life, hoping that someday she might stumble upon the answer of who they are, why they are there, and what happened with the missing girls.

This all sounds very intriguing to me. But that's not really what the book is about. That's almost more just like the backdrop for what feels like an excuse for the author to philosophize and wax poetic, redundantly, repetitively, meanderingly, aimlessly, and frustratingly (for the reader).

Sure, Hunter seems to have an ability to put together pretty sentences, and she seems to have a desire to drop little "a-ha" sentences along the way that are supposed to make the reader ooo and aaa.. But, unfortunately, those moments were more eye-rolling moments for me.  I was frustrated that the *story* never seemed to move forward. Between Jane's inability to progress and her ghosts' obsession with the past or the moment (but never the future), it just stagnated. That's how the story felt to me.... stagnant. And, frankly, a little obvious. It was clear to me rather early on who the ghosts were and what they were doing there.  I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how it took them 19 years to figure out some of the things it took them 19 years to figure out.

And personally... I thought the love interest was a cheap throw-in. It seemed to be an unnecessary sub-plot point created for no purpose other than to add some ... I don't know, steamy interactions? Wasteful to me.

So what was good? Well, as I said, Hunter is able to put together pretty sentences. And there was a great idea and a certain amount of intrigue. And although I felt she spent too much time on the nitty gritty details of the Farringtons or the Chesters that were wholly irrelevant to the rest of what was going on, there were interesting stories there. Certain characters were interesting (George and Norvill), and some of the dialog moved. So it wasn't terrible.  It was just terribly disappointing.

This is one of those books that just takes one step at a time... there's no real point, there's no real climax, there's not even really a resolution... But Hunter has presented arguably thought-provoking points made by the characters, an interesting way to look at the world and people, and arguably relatable characters simply attempting to make it through their lives... if that appeals to you, you will likely enjoy this book!

Overall, 2 and a half of 5 stars (round to 3 on sites w/o half-stars). A middle-of-the-road rating.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Shark Skin Suite by Tom Dorsey

Review based on ARC.

This is my first Dorsey and, of course, my first Serge Storms. Serge Storms .... appears to be some kind of serial killer homicidal psychotic maniac ... but, ya know, over the course of 18 books, may have become "loveable" and "your favorite." While I don't adamantly disagree with that, I also don't agree. And I suspect that has something to do with the fact that I'm coming at this 18 books in. Although the actual plot in this book can stand alone, all the inside jokes and characteristics and personalities must have taken 17 books to develop, so I think I missed out there. SO my recommendation based on that is: Don't start this "series" with #18!

So, while my rating is based on my experience with this book (and *not* decreased because I felt like I was missing out), it is possible that it would have been *increased* if I happened to know more about the background of these characters and, e.g., what the point, exactly, was with some of them (Serge's best friend Coleman).

But the story. So Serge is this... vigilante, really. He's one of those bad guys w/ a heart of gold who seeks to "even the score." And in this book, he meets this young, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed girl and maybe that, combined with a late-night legal movie spree sets him on this mission to... well, become involved in the legal field. Not legally, of course. But aggressively. He insinuates himself in all manner of ways -- he becomes a "fixer" (as a lawyer, I must confess I've never heard of this...) -- someone who "fixes problems" behind-the-scenes (think Nancy Kerrigan and much much worse). In his true psychotic style. And working for the little good guys, he slowly works his way through each of the problems to the final climax of the book.

Think: if Grisham met Evanovich and they co-wrote a sort of Grisham parody really quickly. That's this book. It's fast, there are moments of humor, it doesn't take itself too seriously, it handles some legal issues not terribly accurately, it creates problems for its solutions, and it throws in some love and some scorn and vengeance in there.

If that sounds like your thing? This will not disappoint.
THREE AND A HALF of five stars