Review: A Whole Slew of Book Reviews

Posted 5 July, 2009 by Li in Books / 1 Comment

Okay, I’m sticking all these book reviews together because they’re not long enough to warrant separate posts of their own xD Unlike last time, there aren’t as many in this post 😉

Archangel by Robert Harris

I’ve heard of Robert Harris in passing whenever I’m skimming the shelves at the bookstore or when I’m searching for suspense/thriller novels for my mum but I’ve never actually read any of his work. When my mum ordered this book, I was surprised to learn that the mystery of the book was focusing on Soviet history and the main character was a historian. So, being a history & political science student with a particular interest in Russian history, I took to the book immediately. It’s an interesting premise and overall an interesting novel; what I really like about it is the fact that the plot is plausible, that the course of events and the actions that the main character makes are what a historian I think would do in that kind of situation.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Okay, this book has been floating around the web since it was first announced that such a book was being released. Naturally, being a Jane Austen fan and having enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, I was most curious about the book but at the same time feeling most cautious about it. After all, when it comes to adaptations and twists like these, either the author does a very good job or the entire thing just flops. I can say that Grahame-Smith does a good job of adding some zombie mayhem into the P&P storyline without distorting the original story overall. Like many though, I wished there was more zombie mayhem (it tapered off towards the end) but I found it to be quite amusing, the idea of Lizzie being a hardcore warrior princess fighting zombies and protecting the honour of her family. The twists that Grahame-Smith adds to the story (which I shan’t mention here, you’ll have to find out for yourself ;)) were surprising and interesting in a way that I didn’t expect. So overall, it was a fun read worth checking out 🙂

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley

I picked this book up on a whim during a trip to the bookstore. The premise sounds typical but at the same time it tickled the manga reader in me: a Japanese-Italian American wins a contest to work as an intern for a big manga corporation in Japan for a year. She leaves behind a comfortable and routine lifestyle, an organized (to insane proportions) fiance and friends. It’s a year of discovery for Lisa as she gets used to Japanese culture and etiquette, deals with a famous-yet-hostile mangaka and learns to take a stand to do something that she loves. It’s a light read and I really became quite attached to Lisa that I really got peeved at all the people who dared stand in her way and did not support her in her endeavours.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella

The title alone caught my attention and enticed me to pick it up, lol. Anyways, the novel follows Robert Wallis, an idle, aspiring poet who is recruited by a businessman to help promote his coffee. He falls in love with his employer’s daughter, Emily, as they work to describe, catalogue and advertise their coffee to the market. He eventually is sent to Africa to help the business further, testing Emily and Robert’s relationship and discovering more about the coffee trade at the turn of the century. Capella does a good job of interweaving economic history (coffee trade at the end of the 19c/start of the 20c), women’s demand for voting rights and coffee (yes, very important, lol). But despite of all of this, I thought the plot was only o-kay because of the characters, whom I thought were, although interesting in their own ways, kind of annoying. Emily, who starts off pretty eccentric and interesting for a woman of the period, becomes pretty militant beyond all rationalisation with the women’s rights movement. Robert, on the other hand, seems to think more with his male member than with his brain that, for all his gift with words, made me want to smack his at times. While I appreciated the time period in which the story was set and the abundant amount of coffee the story overflowed with, the characters made me feel pretty indifferent to the story overall.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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The Book of God and Physics by Enrique Joven

Another book I picked up on a whim, haha. The story follows Hector, a Jesuit priest who teaches science at a high school but also trying to decipher the Voynich Manuscript with a couple of other people all over the world. There’s a lot of history, science and logic involved in this novel (I’m not going to lie, the math completely went over my head), which made the book pretty informative. The characters were also pretty interesting and it’s very much set in the modern day, complete with email. There’s even scans from the manuscript in the novel. I’ve read comments where they were let down by the lack of “thriller” in this novel that you would see in other novels like Dan Brown or Steve Berry but I don’t think this novel was meant to follow in that stream. It’s very much a slow process, which you would expect if such a story took place in real life. My only issue with the novel was with the way it ended; you’re pretty much left going “That’s it?” But if you’re interesting in history and science, don’t let the sudden ending deter you, it’s a pretty interesting novel.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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A Darkness Forged In Fire by Chris Evans

The first book of The Iron Elves trilogy, the novel follows Konowa Swift Dragon, the former commander of the Empire’s Iron Elves who murdered a Viceroy and sentenced to the forest, a place he despises. But with the Shadow Monarch creeping into the Empire and internal problems festering by the day, the Iron Elves are reformed to find a Red Star that fell in the east. It has all the basic elements of a high fantasy novel with military history components. Konowa is a fascinating and complex elf beset with his own problems and the cast of characters are all well-established with their own quirks and characteristics. It’s a strong beginning for a trilogy, I’d definitely tune in to see how the trilogy turns out (even though I really should not be investing to any more fantasy trilogies at the moment; my shelf is bursting with trilogies left and right).

My only qualm with this book was the character of Visyna, who falls under my typical pet peeve in the fantasy genre of asserting her particular world view at the wrong time. While I understand her people’s struggle for freedom from the empire, given the situation that they’re in with the Shadow Monarch creeping in and really bad and dark stuff is going on all around them, I don’t think think this is the best forum for her to express and insist her point of view. The priorities are just different out there on the frontier. I just hope she tones down in the next novel.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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One Response to “Review: A Whole Slew of Book Reviews”

  1. TK

    Hey! Thanks for the review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I’m with Quirk Books, and I wanted to let you know that we’re coming out with a hardcover deluxe edition of the book in November – with 30% more zombies and full color illustrations! We felt you might be interested in that 😉 Who doesn’t love more zombies?

    Visit our Quirk Classics Facebook page to learn more and to find out the newest title in the Quirk Classic Series on July 15! Fans of the page will receive a special Facebook update at 12:00 a.m. EST. If you’re not a member of Facebook, you can always check out QuirkClassics.com. Thanks, and thanks again for taking time to review our book!!!

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