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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Book Review – Vanishing Girls

Vanishing GirlsVanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vanishing Girls is billed as a psychological thriller and it is that, but it isn’t new and fresh, or even that surprising. But that isn’t what pulled me into this story. First and foremost, even before I’d call it a psychological thriller, I’d call it a story about sisters. The relationship and love between Nick and Dara is heart-wrenching. I have a younger sister whom I adore, but whom I’ve also had my jealousies of and with. I could relate to the emotions in this book and there are a lot of them.
It’s a quick read with fairly simple language. The metaphors are sometimes awkward, but given the speed of the story did not irritate me too much. I did have some issues with the mystery of the missing girl, Madeline Snow. I was so connected to the story of the ‘estranged’ sisters after the accident that this other mystery didn’t feel as natural. It did serve to push the story and the reveal forward, but otherwise it seemed slightly awkward.
I will also say that I knew what was coming in the twist about halfway through the book. That said, I did replay and reread certain scenes after I had finished the book to understand the new perspective. To me, that is a sign the twist was actually well done, even if I did see it coming.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book but it was not for the mystery and instead for the characters and the touching relationship between the sisters – the love and hate, the anger, the jealousy, the forgiveness. It’s a quick read and worth the time.

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Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely adored this book from start to finish. It had me completely hooked when I understood there would be references to pop culture of the 80’s and when it references Dead Man’s Party I was beyond excited. It just got better from there. And the few times I started to question something, I was pleasantly surprised to find my questions answered in the very next chapter. I loved the diversity in the characters and the accurate representation of friendships that can develop in online communities.

It’s a brilliant book that both celebrates and cautions online communities. I think everyone can find something they enjoy in this book.

PS Who else is dying to go to dancing at the Distracted Globe?

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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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The Perpetual Page Turner’s 5th Annual End Of Year Survey – 2014 Edition!

This is the first year that I’m participating in Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner’s annual end of year survey. Big thanks to Kristen at Super Space Chick for turning me on to it.

2014 Reading Stats

Number of Books You Read: Goodreads has me at a total of 32 books this year. I’ve been utterly terrible about updating goodreads this year, so I know that is low. But I also know I read nowhere close to the 65 books I read (and remembered to enter into Goodreads) last year because things have been so crazy. Hopefully, I’ll find a happy medium for 2015.

Number of Re-Reads: 2 (The Witch of Blackbird Pond and A Clash of Kings). There’s so many new books to read I never seem to make the time to re-read my favorites.

Genre You Read the Most From: paranormal fantasy and romance

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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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