Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #18

Dead Astronauts

I don’t know if this book and I were ever going to get along. I’m a huge Jeff VanderMeer fan, but didn’t initially realize this was set in the Borne universe. Borne wasn’t bad, but I just didn’t end up loving it. From what I read, the connections seem pretty loose — same universe, different characters. There is just so MUCH going on here that at 27% in I had no idea what I was reading. The prose was gorgeous, but I struggled to follow the plot. This book is going to make you work, and I cautiously recommend it to those who are up for the challenge.

Rating: DNF

In the House in the Dark of the Woods

I honestly have no idea what this book was trying to accomplish. It starts off as a lighthearted fairytale of sorts and turns into…? It alternated between dry and confusing, sometimes both. There was one point where I thought I genuinely liked it and thought it had a great ending — until I realized I had only hit the 75% mark and had to muddle through to the true ending. This had the potential to say so much about abuse and trauma, which I thought was its purpose for a while, but it ended up being a bit of a meandering mess that I genuinely regret spending my time on.

Rating: ⭐⭐

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

I can definitely appreciate the points this book hit, but it just didn’t vibe with me very well! It’s a relatively quick read and I certainly recommend picking it up if you’re interested in it, though. As a YA book, it touches on a lot of important issues from abortion to drug addiction to teen pregnancy. One of my issues was that I felt like it was trying to touch on too many things and thus lacked a bit in focus. I’d also look up trigger warnings for this beforehand, as there are a lot of potentially upsetting topics at hand. My final criticism is that it read more like a MG book than a YA book as far as voice goes. I kept surprising myself when Gabi would say something about graduating from high school or applying to college because I honestly kept thinking she was 13.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #8

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Sleeping Giants

This was so much better than I could’ve even imagined, in great part because I listened to the audiobook version. A lot of people recommended the audio as the go-to version and they were definitely spot-on with that. There are different voice actors for all of the characters, which I thought allowed the listener to really separate each of them. I can struggle to distinguish character voices in audiobooks and this really helped me understand what was actually going on.

The characters themselves were great and I enjoyed their interactions for the most part. I thought the romance felt a little forced, but luckily it didn’t play too too much into the story. The twists all made sense, but weren’t necessarily things I saw coming. I also really liked the writing style, but I was a huge World War Z fan, so that’s to be expected. Overall I really loved this book and I highly recommend it.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Acceptance (Southern Reach #3)

You could know the what of something forever and never discover the why.

I did really like Acceptance. It did a great job of tying everything together while still letting Area X keep its air of mystery. If you want answers to your questions, you’re going to hate how this series ends. I personally thought it was very well-done. The chapters switch between perspectives, giving us some new POVs and some insight into characters that had previously been pretty mysterious. I loved that we were able to delve back into Area X, which I find to be such a compelling environment. I think Jeff VanderMeer does an incredible job of creating the atmosphere there and I just adore reading about it. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, it’s definitely worth it to continue with this one.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3)

As Gansey shut the door behind him, he heard Adam say, “I don’t want to talk,” and Ronan reply, “The fuck would I talk about?”

I’m so sorry, because I’m not one of those people who has “book boyfriends” and whatnot but I am possible deeply in love with Gansey. I don’t know how or why Maggie Stiefvater did this to me, but I want her to stop. I also don’t want her to stop. I almost ran out and bought The Raven King immediately after finishing BLLB, but I don’t want the series to end, so I’m trying to drag things out for myself. Anyway, this is definitely my favorite book in the series so far and I know this isn’t a review so much as a gush, so again I’m sorry, but UGH. Damn, Maggie knows how to write romances.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Borne [review]

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Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux on April 25, 2017
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.91 (as of 2018-05-26)

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.

At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.

Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.

Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind—or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.

Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?

I had started reading Borne for the Reddit /r/books book club. I had been intending to read it anyway, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I first read VanderMeer when I picked up Annihilation in January, and then Authority in March, and I really enjoyed his writing style. I was impressed by how he was able to pull readers into such bizarre environments and weave such strange tales.

The first half of the book went by pretty quickly for me. There wasn’t much of an introduction to the world itself and as a reader you found yourself thrust into it pretty quickly. It’s a confusing environment — decimated city, giant flying bear, you get the idea — and it’s difficult to orient yourself, but VanderMeer does a pretty good job of immersing you within it and revealing the context slowly.

The pacing was a bit off and I sort of lost interest in the second half of the book, which caused me to finish it a lot slower than I had intended. I became a bit too confused and it was hard to be invested in the story when I didn’t understand what was going on. I really didn’t understand the cause and effect of certain events, so I spent more time trying to figure out what had happened than I spent reacting to them emotionally.

The end pulled things together pretty well, but I had already been lost for long enough that it didn’t redeem things for me. I was disappointed because it didn’t really feel comparable to the first two thirds of the Southern Reach trilogy to me, but I think I also wasn’t in the mindspace to read this kind of book right now, so take that with a grain of salt.

I definitely recommend this for other lovers of VanderMeer and sci-fi lovers in general, but it just didn’t do it for me this time around.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Authority [review]

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Authority by Jeff VanderMeer (Southern Reach Trilogy #2)
Published by FSG Originals on May 6, 2014
341 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.53 (as of 2018/03/19)

Spoiler-free Review 

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

 

After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X–a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization–has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the agency is in complete disarray.

John Rodríguez (aka “Control”) is the Southern Reach’s newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he’s pledged to serve.

In Authority, the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Area X’s most disturbing questions are answered . . . but the answers are far from reassuring.

As some of you may remember, Annihilation clawed its way onto my all-time favorites list when I read it back in January. I finally picked up a copy of Authority recently and made my way back into the world of the Southern Reach. A friend of mine had warned me that the sequel was entirely different, and she was right. Authority is more of a behind-the-scenes look at the goings on of the mysterious government agency in charge of the expeditions. While some questions are answered, far more are dredged up.

He had not expected any of it to be beautiful, but it was beautiful.

Jeff VanderMeer blew me away with his writing once again. From the narrative voice to the characters, I found myself drawn into the story and into Control’s mind. I was as desperate to untangle the secrets as he was. While the middle lagged a bit as far as interest goes, the end of the book pulls the reader down under a wave of action and tension. After turning the last page, I found myself shaken and thirsting for the next book.

You’re a replica, but you’re your own person.

Authority is a fantastic sequel, although it doesn’t hold up to Annihilation in my book, mainly due to the lulls that made it hard to push through the middle. VanderMeer continues the captivating and enigmatic story of Area X and the Southern Reach and leaves you wanting more. I can only hope that Acceptance leaves me with a satisfying ending.

 

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Annihilation [review]

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Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux on February 4, 2014
195 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.64

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

When I saw the first trailer for the Annihilation movie several months ago, I immediately added the book to my TBR-ASAP shelf on Goodreads without even reading through the description. I put in a hold at the library, waited patiently, and then devoured the book immediately after checking it out.

The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.

It’s been a while since a book has hooked me so strongly from the first page, but Annihilation did just that. The writing was just gorgeous, and I was instantly pulled into the world of Area X that VanderMeer had created. From the outset, I didn’t want to put it down, but I forced myself to work my way through slowly and to savor every page.

But there is a limit to thinking about even a small piece of something monumental. You still see the shadow of the whole rearing up behind you, and you become lost in your thoughts in part from the panic of realizing the size of that imagined leviathan.

I adored the narrator and loved the style in which the book was written: a journal penned carefully by the biologist, detailing her experiences on the expedition. The reader’s awareness of Area X, and the events taking place within it, relies completely on what the biologist is willing to share. I loved that she could be a bit of an unreliable narrator, and that she was able to outright admit to intentionally manipulating the reader with what she shared.

But soon enough I banished this nonsense; some questions will ruin you if you are denied the answer long enough.

If you’re the type of reader who wants all of their questions answered, this book isn’t for you. There is no omniscient narrator to share the secrets of Area X with us. There is only the biologist and what she knows, or what she thinks she knows.

I can say without a doubt that Annihilation is now one of my all-time favorite books, and will certainly be on my top 10 list at the end of 2018. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the Southern Reach trilogy has in store for me.

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)