July 11, 2016

Recent Reads

91. The Lie Tree
As the winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2015, this one moved to the top of my TBR pile.

This YA book has so many of the tropes I tend to love: historical fiction, a feisty, headstrong girl, a moody island setting, fossils and scientific discoveries, journals, feminist musings, and mythical things that harken back to the Garden of Eden.

Twelve year old Faith Sunderly is a girl born in the wrong era. She is smart, intelligent, and rather headstrong in a time when girls were expected to be meek, submissive, and rather passive. Things are clearly a struggle for our girl, especially given that she has a thirst for science and secrets.

The author can clearly write, but I had issues with the pacing of this story. The characters are fun, though rather one dimensional, and I have no doubt that if I had read this one as a young girl Faith would have joined my small but precious pantheon of she-heroes. I was delighted with the way the author connects the tree in this story with the tree of knowledge, and how knowledge of many kinds are forbidden fruits. Also, really fun very feminist themes in this one. A fun and quick read. Rating: 3 stars.

92. Coffin Hill Vol. 3: Haunted Houses
This is the final volume in this horror graphic novel series, and there's not much I can say about this one without spoilers. What I will say is that the art continued to be good, the plot interesting, and the conclusion quite satisfying. This would make a great series to read during Halloween. Rating: 3 stars.

93. Black River
Book blurb: A group of women, one man, and two dogs are making their way through a post-apocalyptic world in search of a city that supposedly still has electricity and some sort of civilization.

This graphic novel did not work for me on any level. I've often said that the scary thing about any apocalypse scenario is not the zombies, or vampires, or what-have-you, but people. People can be the scariest thing on the planet. This story happens to agree with me, and there are horrible things that happen in this one, but ultimately, I did not think that it added anything new to the genre, and I did not like the sketchy art either. Not for me. Rating: 1 star.

94. Power of the Dog
Book blurb: This explosive novel takes you deep inside the drug trade, a world riddled with corruption, betrayal, and bloody revenge. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you've never seen it.

I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Ray Porter.

If you, like me, have often wondered how the multi-billion dollar war on drugs seems to have increased the availability of drugs, you too might find this to be an eye opening read. Where is the media coverage on stories like this one? Must we now turn to fiction to help us understand what is going on?

This story spans several countries, has lots of characters, drugs, sex, murder, and it is often hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad. The cast of characters include a DEA agent, and people from all other US government agencies with acronyms, members of the Irish mob and Italian mafia, a very expensive hooker, a priest and other representatives of the Vatican, members of the Mexican and Colombian cartels, and well, just about everyone in the supply chain. This is not sanitized in any way, so prepare for a gritty, fast paced read that will make you angry while also educating you on the despair, murder, money, and politics that keeps this particular wheel turning. The only reason I deducted a star is that the ending seemed to run out of steam, and was not as meaty as the rest of the novel.

There are so many things that our government does on behalf of its citizens that we do not know about. Or maybe we don't want to know. Pulling back that veil is part of what it takes to be a citizen, and this is as good a place to start as any. I would highly recommend this one.

PS: In case you have yet to see Kill the Messenger, I would also recommend that movie. Rating: 4 stars.

95. The Heart of Thomas
The introduction to this graphic novel states that Manga featuring romances between boys is/was very popular with straight young women. I wonder why.

This story is set in an all boys boarding school in Germany (of all places), and boy on boy romance and crushes are all the rage. Most of what is actually depicted is rather chaste, but there is abuse and the story starts out with a young boy committing suicide. I liked the art, but the story did not really work for me. There were too many things that did not make sense - for example Juli's hair is sometimes black and sometimes not, and the author makes a point of talking about his black hair. Then there is Bacchus - was he a teacher of a student? The religious overtones were a bit jarring as well. There is the expected teen angst and melodrama, and if that's your thing you'll probably like this one. This is a fat book, so there were plenty of pages in which to spin out this yarn. I know this is considered a classic in the genre, but I wanted more. Rating: 2 stars.

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