Book Review – The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

The House of Shattered WingsThe House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title itself intrigued me. And then I saw the cover. The image of the throne set in front of a Parisian landscape that includes the Eiffel tower and burning feathers floating down from the sky is stunning. The opening of the book did not lessen my intrigue. The book begins with fall of an angel and proceeds to explain and detail the disaster that Paris has become and the danger that the Fallen face and can create.

We learn that the Fallen, though they rule the city of Paris from within separate “Houses”, are not necessarily safe, especially if newly fallen. Parisians not dedicated to a House prize the Fallen for their parts in order to perform magic and maintain a magical high. Our three main characters, Philippe, Isabelle, and Madeline each embody the main aspects of this world. Isabelle is a newly Fallen. Madeline is an alchemist who belongs to a house and continuously seeks the damaging magical high created from inhaling Angel Essence or the dust of angel bones. Philippe is somewhat of a mystery, but hates the Fallen and who they represent and so tries to live outside of the House system.

These three characters are forced together in a somewhat incongruous way and the story unfolds through their viewpoints. At its core, The House of Shattered Wings is a simple mystery – one built upon discovering whom has created an elaborate plot of revenge against House Silverspires. The revenge is built upon a frightening curse. It is dark and palpably scary. And yet, I wanted more from the book.

I wanted more discussion of theology and philosophy. I wanted to more characterization of many of the Fallen and their faith or lack thereof. I wanted more thought, feeling, and discussion about the rights and wrongs of the War, the House system, and the Fallen’s role in the world. Philippe spends some time considering his place in the world and the way things are, but it is rather superficial. I wanted so much more of this and from more of the characters.

Despite spending a majority of the book with Philippe, Isabelle, and Madeline, I only felt like I truly got to know Madeline. While the book is beautifully written and the descriptions are wondrous (multiple sensations were frequently described), I found the plot and its pacing slightly discordant. I feel like the book the author wasn’t quite sure what she really wanted her book to be – a tale of the Fallen and other Immortals once they become mortal or a tale of a post-war future. Even the discord between Houses and the House system itself could have used more detail. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly I found lacking, but I just know I wanted more. And as a result, the ending felt slightly unsatisfactory and abrupt.

Galley copy of The House of Shattered Wings
Overall, I recommend The House of Shattered Wings as an entertaining and intriguing story. But do not look to it for deeper implications and philosophies.

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Review: Day Shift

Day Shift (Midnight, Texas, #2)Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brief note to begin, I have not read Midnight Crossroad, so Day Shift is my first introduction to the people of Midnight, Texas. That said, my enjoyment was not hindered at all by this fact.

Midnight is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere Texas. And that seems to suit all the characters perfectly, which is why additional visitors seem to unnerve the residents. And despite the truly terrible character names, the characters were all so intriguing (enough to make me want to go back and read Midnight Crossroad). You’ve got the tattooed and pierced psychic, the vampire, the witch, the nice gay guys, the mysterious woman, and more. Over the course of the book, we are given tidbits and glimpses into all of these characters and more. We are teased wonderfully with the secrets they are hiding. None of these people truly know one another and we don’t either, even by the end of the book. But, we are given enough information over the course of the story to whet our appetite and not frustrate us.

There are a lot of story threads and a lot of viewpoints which may frustrate some readers but served to keep me intrigued. Although I will admit, I did lost track of some of the different intrigues over the course of the story as we focused on some of the more direct mysteries (the accusations leveled at Manfred and the mystery of the boy left in Rev’s care). Just when you think that even Charlaine Harris has forgotten about some of the stories, she’s weaves a tidbit or reference back in. Harris is great at mystery and she has set up a lot of things in this quirky town to fill several more books.

The story is unfolded in simple language without overly complicated or hard to understand writing. It’s clear and direct and makes the book a fast read. .At times, it feels too simple. The main mystery in the book was not too hard to unravel and guess at which annoyed me until I realized it had wrapped up just to leave room for the return of my absolute favorite character from the Southern Vampire series (aka the Sookie Stackhouse books). I love that the Midnight, Texas books are set in the same world as those of the Harper Connelly and Southern Vampire books for exactly this reason. Day Shift actually has a couple characters known to Sookie making appearances.

Overall, I enjoyed Day Shift immensely. But that enjoyment was very much due to the fact that I was looking for simple, light, enjoyable fare. That’s no to say there wasn’t violence, death, and references to terrible acts, but we didn’t linger on it. It was straightforward. This is exactly the type of book you want to take with you to read on the beach in the summer. This is the Charlaine Harris I grew to love in the early Sookie books (before they went off the rails).

I look forward to checking back in with the residents of Midnight in a future installment.

Note: I was provided a promotional/free copy of Day Shift by Ace or Roc Books, but all views are my own.

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Review: The Sparrow

The Sparrow
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

The Sparrow is a brilliant exploration of religion, faith, spirituality and humanity in the face of fate, chance, and wonderful discoveries. I loved it. As a speculative science fiction book, there are some distinct problems. But I read the book without criticizing those aspects and focused more on the events and relationships. That’s where the power of this story lies. The characters are brilliant (particularly Anne Edwards in my own opinion) who the reader comes to know and love. The development of the relationships, in both timelines, feels natural.

I was absolutely wrenched by the ending of the book, but found it couldn’t have ended another way. And though there is a sequel, I’m not sure I’ll ever read it. Some books stand so well on their own and create so many thoughts and feelings, it’s hard to want to return to another time in that world.

I highly recommend reading The Sparrow and taking some time to reflect on where your own values and beliefs lie.

TheSparrow
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Reading Challenge – Bout of Books 12

Because I’ve resolved to post more about reading this year, I’m going to try participating in a number of different challenges and reading related things like the Classics Club and now the Bout of Books.

For those that don’t know what Bout of Books is… here you go:

Bout of BooksThe Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Below I’ve included my personal goals for this week of reading and I will be updating this post over the course of the week to let you know how I’m doing. (more…)

Review: Star Wars: Scoundrels

Star Wars: Scoundrels
Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though I’ve been a fan of the Star Wars movies as long as I can remember (admittedly more 4,5 and 6 then 1,2, and 3), I’ve never ventured into the expanded universe detailed via the written word. Until now. I was fortunate enough tor receive an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn through the Goodreads First Reads giveaways. Naturally, being an avid reader I took advantage.

Somehow, don’t ask how, I am actually familiar with Timothy Zahn (though I’ve never read any of his books before) and have heard that he is great at what he does. That and the cover (which sadly I don’t have on my ARC) would likely have been enough to make me pick up this book. Couple that with the fact that this book takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back – the part of the Star Wars universe I’m most familiar with – and I was excited to read my first Star Wars books.

It didn’t disappoint! Scoundrels is essentially an Ocean’s Eleven type heist/caper plot but with a cast of familiar (Han, Chewie, and Lando) and unfamiliar Star Wars characters (Bink, Tavia, Winter, Zerba, and more). The cast of characters is quite large and difficult to keep straight until about a quarter of the way through the book. But there is a handy ‘dramtis personae’ guide in the beginning of the book. And I’ll admit to flipping back to that a few times. You learn character background and details sparingly as the book moves forward, but I find that to be intriguing and just one of many factors that kept me interested and quickly reading through.

Another reason I kept reading, the plot pacing while quick was not frenetic. To me it seemed perfectly suited for the activities unfolding. Early on in the book, a scene unfolds in a cantina with Han that is clearly a nod to the ‘Han shot first’ debate that continues between fans and George Lucas. If I wasn’t sold on enjoying it before, that certainly helped. I can’t say much else about the plot and story without spoiling the book, but hopefully I’ve convinced you it is worth a read anyway.

I really enjoyed this book. I may even pick up another Timothy Zahn Star Wars book to explore. Any Star Wars fan (with limited or expanded knowledge) is likely to enjoy the book. I’d venture it’s possible even a non-Star Wars fan may enjoy it, but it is a lot of fun to read it picturing Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams. Go read Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Scoundrels and see if you agree!

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