February 23, 2015

Recent Reads

13. The Great Zoo of China
I've been disappointed by the "literary" reads I've tried the past couple of weeks, so decided to try something totally different. Went with an author completely new to me, one known for fast paced thrillers, and oh what a ride this has been.

Think of this story as a cross between Jurassic Park and Sharknado, though not nearly as good as the former, set in China. It is ridiculously over-the-top, and the characters are so transparent that you could swap out one American for another, or one Chinese for another. The writing is not good with liberal usage of exclamation points and italics. The plot is predictable, and I knew how things would go wrong fairly early on in the story. As for our heroine, CJ makes Jack Bauer look like a wimp.

Given all that, I read the 400 or so pages in two sittings. I giggled when people were decapitated or bitten in half - and that is no spoiler, c'mon, you know it's going to happen! This was exactly what I needed to cleanse my palate, and I'd recommend that if you read it, you have some crunchy snacks and an umbrella drink at your side. Rating: 3 stars.

14. The Paying Guests
The setting is London circa 1922, and life in Britain has changed in incomprehensible ways after the war. Zoom in to a upscale neighborhood, where we meet Frances Wray and her mother, who must reluctantly take in lodgers in order to generate some much needed positive cash flow. The lodgers, Lilian and Leonard Barber, will shake up life in this genteel house in unexpected ways.

I'm a huge Sarah Waters fan, and had been saving this book for a time when I knew I could fully immerse myself in the story. If you are a Sarah Waters fan, you know to expect certain themes, and this one started out delightfully. However, while there is some lovely writing, I found myself bored with the story. It all seemed to be happening at too much of a distance, with characters who did not seem fully fleshed out. At no point was I emotionally sucked into the lives of these people and their dramas. The suspense seemed rather contrived, the ending anticlimactic, and honestly if this had not been a book by this author, I would have bailed about a hundred pages in. 

This is yet another literary read on the 2015 Rooster list, and high on my TBR, that has left me cold, and I'm a little gun-shy about starting any of the others. Time for a graphic novel or two while I decide what to read next.  Rating: 2 stars.

15. In Real Life
This graphic novel, targeted at a teen audience, has surprisingly feminist and social justice themes weaved into the story. Anda's life is divided in two: her real life, and the online life in a massively-multiplayer role-playing game. The art wonderfully captures the sense of how the two worlds are differently tinged, and yet there are parallels in both that I found quite lovely. This did not get more stars as things were a little too neatly tied up in a bow, and there were many issues simply glossed over. Still, a fun and fast read. Rating: 3 stars.

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