Sleeping Giants Review

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain NeuvelSleeping Giants
by Sylvain Neuvel (April 2016)

Rose is riding her new bike in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings, in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the bizarre artifact remains a mystery-its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected. But some can never stop searching for answers.

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Enjoyable
3 Stars - Recommended

Book Review

Whether you love Sleeping Giants or not will come down to how much you enjoy your science fiction filtered through interviews and written artifacts. The interview format makes for a lightning-fast read. The narrative skips from highlight to highlight, allowing a lot of story time to pass quickly. As parts of an alien robot are discovered, assembled and studied, the interviews are used as a Cliff Notes overview of significant events. The style leaves out tedious details and keeps the action moving without too much exposition.

The interview format also creates an emotional distance that keeps Sleeping Giants from being engaging. Every suspenseful moment is diluted by after-the-fact descriptions. Emotions are described (in analytic detail), not experienced. Heard only through their answers, which are often evasive or angry, characters are unsympathetic. The interviews cover complicated relationships between the investigative team, causing some sections to feel like melodramatic accounts of inter-office drama.

Sleeping Giants‘ interview format is both its strength and its weakness, and is likely to provoke polarizing extremes in its readers.

I received an advance copy of Sleeping Giants from the publisher for review.

Recommended for:
* Experimental format: through interviews
* Intriguing alien artifacts
* Interpersonal drama among science and military personnel

If you like Sleeping Giants, check out these book recommendations!

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Silver on the Road Review

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne GilmanSilver on the Road
Book 1 of The Devil’s West
by Laura Anne Gilman (2015)

On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel chooses to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. He’s a being with immense but limited power, who deals fairly with people looking for a deal, and who makes sure they get what they deserve. His wild west needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in.

Trained to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy sets out to learn the ways of the territory. She will find herself, and what it means to be the devil’s hand, on the endless road.

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Recommended
4 Stars - Recommended

Book Review

Silver on the Road delivers an original fantasy in the endless plains and arid foothills of the Old West. If you like a western setting, you’ll love. Landscapes are perfectly rendered and beautifully described. The grammar and prose is just rural enough to feel natural, without ever leaving you to decipher chicken scratch dialogue. You’ll get a feel for life on the road, from the sway in the saddle to the daily rituals of camp and campfire.

Book Quote: Silver on the Road, Laura Anne GilmanBut it’s not just the stunning setting that makes Silver on the Road a worthy read. Izzy, the devil’s hand, and Gabriel, an experienced rider who shows her the ropes, are nuanced characters to travel with. Their friendship evolves slowly, through shared silences and long miles. It’s a joy to see characters brought to life without the need for much dialogue, as they learn to read each other’s actions through experience.

The fantasy element is subtle, almost magical realism. It’s embedded in the land, in the traditions of unclaimed territory and the road that leads across it. For much of the story, it’s possible to not take much notice of the magical forces that shape events. But as Izzy and Gabriel track down a strange darkness come to the territory, they face forces more comfortably in the realm of heroic fantasy. It’s a slow-paced read, but richly rewarding for its realistic characters and rich settings.

Recommended for:
* Old West historical setting
* Vivid descriptions and subtle magic
* Believable characters that bond through shared experiences

If you like Silver on the Road, check out these book recommendations!

Drift and Dagger Review

Drift and Dagger by Kendall KulperDrift and Dagger
by Kendall Kulper (2015)

Mal used to have a home, a best friend, and a secret. He lost all three the day Essie Roe exposed him as a blank: someone unaffected by magic. Everyone hates and fears blanks—even Mal.

Now Mal travels the world in search of dangerous magical relics with his partner in crime, Boone. When they learn of a dagger that steals magic, Mal may have found a way to even the score.

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Recommended
4 Stars - Recommended

Book Review

Let me get this out of the way first. Drift & Dagger is a companion book to Salt & Storm, which I’m not at all interested in (too much romance for me). But Drift is a heist novel in a fantasy setting, and you know how I am about those. Reviews say it can be read separately, and even advise reading Drift first, so I did. And yes, Drift stands alone just fine.

Drift & Dagger is set in nineteenth century New England, at the height of the whaling industry, and you can practically smell the salt in the air. The world is saturated with magic, for everyone but Mal. But what makes him an outcast also makes him a uniquely-skilled thief. His quest for an illusive artifact will take him around the world, delivering enough capers and narrow escapes for anyone else who might share my weakness for con men. (If you do, check out my list of Ten Heist Novels to Fall For.)

But it’s character which keeps the story grounded. If you like morally ambiguous heroes driven by painful pasts, Mal is your man. His childhood friendship with Roe, revealed in bittersweet memories, provides the context you need to understand Mal and the quest for revenge that drives him. Drift and Dagger is a fun, fast fantasy in a unique setting, and only a minimal amount of romance.

Recommended for:
* Fast-paced heists with magic
* Flawed, morally ambiguous heroes
* Unique historical setting

If you like Drift and Dagger, check out these book recommendations!

Last Song Before Night Review

Book Review: Last Song Before NightLast Song Before Night
by Ilana C. Meyer (2015)

Long ago, poets were Seers with powerful magic. Then the enchantments of Eivar were lost. Now a song is only words and music, and no more.

But when a dark power threatens, two poets must restore enchantment to the land. The road to the Otherworld, where the enchantments reside, will imperil their lives and test the deepest desires of their hearts.

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Recommended
4 Stars - Recommended

Book Review

If you enjoy music, bards, and lyrical descriptions of the arts, then you’ll love this song-infused fantasy world.

Last Song Before Night takes a while to start moving, but the world is rich and interesting. It’s a book to take your time with. Flowing prose complements the story, creating the feel of music on the page. It’s a pleasurable escape to savor as you read, and the story pacing picks up a lot by the end. Overall, Last Song Before Night is a solid fantasy with a lyrical feel.

Recommended for:
* Music lovers
* Fantasy fans
* Lyrical prose

If you like Last Song Before Night, check out these book recommendations!

Heart Goes Last Review

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret AtwoodThe Heart Goes Last
by Margaret Atwood (2015)

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are desperate. When they see an advertisement for Consilience, a social experiment offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. In return for suburban paradise, all they have to do is give up their freedom every second month and swap their home for a prison cell.

Add The Heart Goes Last to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Not Recommended
2 Stars - Not Recommended

Book Review

If you haven’t read Margaret Atwood before, The Heart Goes Last is not the place to start. As in her more famous works, Handmaid’s Tale and The MaddAdam Trilogy, Atwood takes on themes of violence against women, consumerism, and the dysnfunctionality of modern life, and explores them in a dystopian setting.

Unfortunately, the way they’re presented here feels hackneyed and uninteresting. The prose shows little glimmer of beauty to make up for the bleak, violent world. The second half of Heart Goes Last is a parade of sexual dysfunctions and bedroom melodrama. Sometimes, it’s funny, in a laugh-at-reality-television-and-feel-guilty sort of way. But there are better books to spend time with.

Verdict: go read Atwood’s MaddAdam series instead.

Recommended for:
* hardcore Margaret Atwood fans
* gender issues in dystopia
* bleakly funny dysfunctions

For more (better) dystopias, check out these book recommendations!

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ooima - Manga Review
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A Silent Voice Manga Review

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ooima - Manga review by Come Hither BooksA Silent Voice, Volume 1
art & story by Yoshitoki Ooima (2015)

Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far. Shoko is forced to leave the school, and Shoya ends up shouldering all the blame. Six years later, the two meet again. Can Shoya make up for his past mistakes, or is it too late?

Pin for laterAdd Silent Voice to GoodreadsMy result: Highly Recommended
5 Stars - Highly Recommended

Manga Review

Shoko is an unlikeable protagonist, as teasing and side comments escalate to physical threats and destructive behavior. But where A Silent Voice shines is in showing how easily things can escalate out of control. The teacher’s casual insensitivity, adults’ lack of awareness, and all of the competition and acting out that takes place at that age combine to create a dangerous environment.

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ooima - Manga ReviewA Silent Voice shows the emotional toll of bullying on both victim and aggressor over time. It’s fascinating to see both sides presented so vividly, and I loved the evolution of the artwork as Shoya’s isolation grows. Facial features for classmates become more vague, then blank out into empty outlines, until eventually their faces are X-ed out altogether.

Recommended for:
* Thoughtful exploration of bullying
* Art style that perfectly matches story
* Unforgettable characters
* Complex emotions and relationships

Add Silent Voice to Goodreads   Pin for later

Girl with Ghost Eyes Review

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. BoronsonThe Girl with Ghost Eyes
by M.H. Boroson (November 2015)

It’s the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and Daoshi ghost hunters keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world.

When a sorcerer threatens Chinatown, only Li-lin can stop his plans. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Recommended
4 Stars - Recommended

Book Review

The Girl with Ghost Eyes boasts Chinese magic and spirits from Asian mythology, and a turn of the century Chinatown full of complex, nuanced characters. With a spirit world layered just over ours and mythical creatures that spill over to threaten reality, it’s got the hallmarks of urban fantasy. But well-researched folklore and the intricate customs and structure of San Francisco’s immigrant community at the century’s end make this debut fantasy feel like nothing you’ve read before.

If you’re looking for rich, folklore-based fantasy in a vivid moment of history, The Girl with Ghost Eyes will satisfy. The vibrant life of Chinatown’s immigrant community is revealed with an action-packed punch.

Recommended for:
* Fantasy in a rich historical setting
* Spirits and magic from Chinese folklore traditions
* Cultural immersion with vivid characters and lyrical language

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Leviathan Wakes Review

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. CoreyLeviathan Wakes (2011)
Expanse #1
by James S.A. Corey

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from Saturn’s rings to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew find a derelict ship, they find a secret they never wanted. Someone is willing to kill to cover up the truth, and war is brewing.

Detective Miller is looking for a missing girl. When the trail leads to Holden’s mystery ship, he realizes the girl may be the key to everything. Holden and Miller must thread the needle between Earth’s government, Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations. The odds are against them, but one small ship could change the fate of the universe.

Pin for laterAdd Leviathan Wakes to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Highly Recommended
5 Stars - Highly Recommended

Book Review

Leviathan Wakes is the perfect blend of science fiction, mystery, and horror. It starts out noir in a world of teeming spaceports and isolated outposts, then takes a turn into Lovecraftian horror as the plot races forward. The mystery delivers an obsessed detective on the trail of the case he can’t forget, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. The horror elements come late, but are chilling enough to satisfy.

Holden and Miller are viewpoint characters with polar opposite beliefs and conflicting morals. Their actions spring naturally from what they believe, and drive the plot. Rarely have I seen differing beliefs shown so clearly, with neither side cast as fully right or wrong.

If you love cross-genre reads or complex characters in conflict, you’ll love Leviathan Wakes. (And if you like to read the book before the TV show, The Expanse is coming to SyFy this December. Here’s hoping they get the balance right.)

Recommended for:
* Science fiction fans with a love of cross-genre elements
* Mystery or horror fans looking for something different
* Well-developed characters with complex moral beliefs

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The Wrath and the Dawn Review

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn
by Renee Ahdieh (2015)

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings death. Each night Khalid takes a new bride only to have her strangled come morning. When Shahrzad’s friend falls victim, she volunteers to be his next bride. She vows to end the reign of terror once and for all.

Each night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid with stories to survive another night. But incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself beginning to fall for Khalid. All is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. Can love survive in this world of stories and secrets?

Pin for laterAdd to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Highly Recommended
5 Stars - Highly Recommended

Book Review

The Wrath and the Dawn is a lushly written retelling of the Arabian Nights. Rich language and silver-edged dialogue live up to the premise, while the romance provides something new. By fleshing out the world and characters of Arabian Nights, Ahdieh accomplishes something special: a hate to love romance that actually makes sense.

The slow-burn, complicated romance made this story for me (which is rare). Highlight, for minor spoilers:

There’s none of that hate is just the other side of love nonsense. Instead, they get to know each other, and find that many of their reasons for hatred aren’t quite true. As they learn more about each other, they find reasons for love. But that still doesn’t forgive the things that they have done.

With dark magicks and deadly curses, The Wrath and the Dawn satisfies as a fantasy too. The world building, though based on our own history, is elaborate and well-developed. Rich details and beautiful prose paint a landscape that’s a pleasure to sink into as you read.

Recommended as:
* Beautifully-written retelling of Arabian Nights
* Swoon-worthy slow-burning romance
* Diverse read from non-Western culture

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Manga Classics: Great Expectations
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Manga Classics Review

Manga Classics: Great ExpectationsManga Classics: Great Expectations (2015)
by Charles Dickens, adaptated by Crystal Chan & Stacy King, art by Nokman Poon

Great Expectations has it all: romance, mystery, comedy, and unforgettable characters woven through a gripping rags-to-riches tale. Naive Pip, creepy Miss Haversham, beautifully cold Estella, terrifying Abel Magwitch, and the rest of Dicken’s fantastic cast are perfectly envisioned in this new adaptation.

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3 Stars - Enjoyable

Manga Review
Manga Classics: Great Expectations captures all of the things that makes Dickens great. The characters are complex and full of contradictions, and the story both frightens, frustrates, and inspires. The artwork does a good job of capturing these complicated characters and taking me through their journey. It’s surprising just how much of the plot fits into a 300+ page manga. It captures the feel of Dickens’ prose and whets my appetite for more.

Manga Classics: The Scarlet LetterManga Classics: The Scarlet Letter (2015)
by Nathaniel Hawthorne, adaptated by Crystal Chan & Stacy King, art by SunNeko Lee

A powerful tale of forbidden love, shame, and revenge comes to life in The Scarlet Letter. Faithfully adapted by Crystal Chan from the original, this manga edition features stunning artwork which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tragic saga of Puritan America.

Add to Goodreads or see more reviewsMy result: Recommended
4 Stars - Recommended

Manga Review
This manga edition of The Scarlet Letter captures the feel of Hawthorne’s prose and the twisted but compelling story of guilt, redemption and revenge in Puritan Boston. Striking art design keeps the scarlet mark bright red in otherwise black and white panels. As a fan of the original, I enjoyed how well this adaptation translates prose metaphors to visual clues, without overstating what was originally presented as subtext. The ambiguity of the ending is preserved, and this Scarlet Letter fan is satisfied.

Manga Classis Series Review

Hester defends her child in Manga Classics: The Scarlet LetterThe Manga Classics series is a set of five classics (so far) presented manga style. To try this series (and decide whether to order it for my library), I read two titles: Great Expectations and The Scarlet Letter.

Great Expectations, which I haven’t read, to see if they make sense when I don’t know the story. The Scarlet Letter, which I adore, to see if they’re satisfying when I’m already a fan. Both passed the test, and both include resources at the end to shed light on the adaptation process and unique traits of the original stories.

The Manga Classics series is recommended:
* To revisit or remember a favorite classic
* For manga fans looking for something different
* To enjoy classic stories in a short, fast format

Add to Goodreads or see more reviewsThe Manga Classics series also includes Les Miserables, Pride & Prejudice, and Emma, with more titles to come.

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