Books: Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 10 March, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Another batch of mini-reviews today (I think this might be something of a trend this year?)! This time it’s mostly classics, novellas, and one DNF *le sigh* —


The Devil’s Nebula (Weird Space #1)
By: Eric Brown
Format/Source: eBook; courtesy of Rebellion Publications

Best-selling author Eric Brown has created a brand new shared world for Abaddon Books: Weird Space. This thrilling space-opera series will begin with the release of The Devil’s Nebula. Brown will introduce readers to the human smugglers, veterans and ne’erdowells who are part of the Expansion – and their uneasy neighbours, the Vetch Empire. When an evil race threatens not only the Expansion, but the Vetch too – an evil from another dimension which infests humans and Vetch alike and bends individuals to do their hideous bidding, only cooperation between them means the difference between a chance of survival and no chance at all.

I received a copy of this book when I signed up for Rebellion Publication’s newsletter which was cool. Unfortunately a few chapters into the book I had to put it down: the characters didn’t strike my interest and despite throwing readers directly into the action from the get-go I just wasn’t interested. I’m normally all for spac opera but this just didn’t catch my attention at all, and with so many other books on my TBR pile, yeah, I had to put it down.

Rating: DNF

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Five Plays
By: Anton Chekhov
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Chekhov’s worldwide reputation as a dramatist rests on five great plays: Ivanov, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard. All are presented in this collection, taken from the authoritative Oxford Chekhov, in Ronald Hingley’s acclaimed translation. Hingley has also written an introduction specifically for this volume in which he provides a detailed history of Chekhov’s involvement in the theater and an assessment of his accomplishment as a dramatist.

Anton Chekhov is one of my favourite Russian authors; his short stories are absolutely concise, like Alice Munro, in revealing the human condition and the struggles that go on inside us individually. I had been meaning the longest time to check out Chekhov’s plays as he was quite famous for them as well.

Well, reading his plays were a bit of a different experience compared to reading his stories, but I suppose that’s because these plays were meant to be presented as a different medium than solely read. It was an interesting experience, the expressions and actions a little exaggerated but hits home the feelings and desperations that these characters are going through. Each play focuses on a particular set of themes and range of issues that the characters are faced with; while some were more interesting than others, I always found the characters to be fully realised with their own interests, personalities, and internal turmoils.

Overall, my favourite plays from this batch were “Ivanov” and “Uncle Vanya.” I’m happy to have finally read them; perhaps one of these days I’ll watch an actual performance of one of these plays 🙂

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Sunset Mantle
By: Alter S. Reiss
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

With a single blow, Cete won both honor and exile from his last commander. Since then he has wandered, looking for a place to call home. The distant holdings of the Reach Antach offer shelter, but that promise has a price.

The Reach Antach is doomed.

Barbarians, traitors, and scheming investors conspire to destroy the burgeoning settlement. A wise man would move on, but Cete has found reason to stay. A blind weaver-woman and the beautiful sunset mantle lure the warrior to wager everything he has left on one final chance to turn back the hungry tides of war.

I first heard of this book when Tor announced its line-up of novellas to be published in 2015. I admit, it was the cover art and the title that caught my interest before the premise of the novel :3 It’s sort of your standard fare action fantasy with the main character being a warrior by nature and finding himself in a rather prickly situation (to put it mildly). What’s interesting is not only how impressive Cete’s resolve is in continuing on with his life, but the world in which the story is set in and his relationship to Mariel, the blind weaver to weaves beautiful mantles for commission. The story picks up considerably when Cete finds himself an outcast in the society he’s found shelter in, and when the burgeoning conflict happening between the clans finally come to a head. It was overall an interesting read that wrapped up nicely and had a very interesting setting.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Of Sorrow and Such
By: Angela Slatter
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

Mistress Gideon is a witch. The locals of Edda’s Meadow, if they suspect it of her, say nary a word—Gideon has been good to them, and it’s always better to keep on her good side. Just in case.

When a foolish young shapeshifter goes against the wishes of her pack, and gets herself very publicly caught, the authorities find it impossible to deny the existence of the supernatural in their midst any longer; Gideon and her like are captured, bound for torture and a fiery end.

Should Gideon give up her sisters in return for a quick death? Or can she turn the situation to her advantage?

OMG guys, this novella! I heard so many good things about this story and have been eyeing it since Tor first announced its anticipated publication date. I finally picked it up before my book-buying ban went into effect and once I started reading it, I just couldn’t put it down! It’s such an atmospheric read, the characters are well drawn out, the fantastical elements familiar and yet still mysterious in a way. Not to mention things get especially tense when Mistress Gideon’s past catches up with her, how one single act of compassion and a helping hand brings more trouble than any of the characters could possibly imagine. It was so intense at times that I actually had to put the book down–but then pulled the book back up again and continued reading 😛

As I mentioned the characters were pretty fleshed out, Mistress Gideon is such a fascinating character: not young and inexperienced but not too old either, she’s mature and she knows enough about the world to be cautious when you need to be and when it let go. She has a past, she has sins she’s atoning for, but she’s ultimately a good person who looks out for the people she cares for, is fair with the people she’s deailing with, retaliates when needed, and isn’t afraid to be tough when the situation calls for it.

I really enjoyed Of Sorrow and Such, one of my first 5-star reads of 2016! I will definitely keep a look out for this author’s earlier collected works–the characters she has brought to life and the world of these characters is absolutely fascinating and ripe for further exploration and intrigue.

Rating: ★★★★★

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The Complete Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe
By: Edgar Allan Poe
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase

Although best known for his short stories, Edgar Allan Poe was by nature and choice a poet. This edition of his complete poetry illustrates the transcendent world of unity and ultimate beauty he created in his verse. From his exquisite lyric “To Helen” to his immortal masterpieces “Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and “The Raven,” Poe stands beside the celebrated English Romantic poets Shelley, Byron, and Keats, and his haunting, sensuous poetic vision profoundly influenced the Victorian giants Swinburne, Tennyson, and Rossetti.

Today his dark side speaks eloquently to contemporary readers in his poems, such as “The Haunted Palace” and “The Conqueror Worm,” with their powerful images of madness and the macabre. But even at the end of his life, Poe reached out to his art for comfort and courage, giving us in “Eldorado” a talisman to hold during our darkest moments—a timeless gift from an American writer.

I think it was the year before, after reading Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen (review), that I decided to check out Edgar Allen Poe’s works in earnest. I had read some of his poetry in passing–namely “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”–but this was the first time that I read all of his poems. I only read bits of the introduction, diving straight into his works when I started reading this book, but ouch that his poems weren’t very well regarded during his life and that they found his poems too flourishing (if that was indeed the word they used). I greatly enjoyed his poems, they were full of imagery and feeling (and perhaps a little too repetitious in some cases) with some stunning lines here and there.

Rating: ★★★★★

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And those are the mini book reviews! Have you read any of these titles? Would you read any of them at some point in the future?

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