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The Shining Girls


The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Pub: June 2013

A time-traveling serial killer hunts down girls who “shine” in Chicago from the 1930s to present-day as Kirby, the one girl who survived his attack, tries to stop him.

Opening line:

He clenches the orange plastic pony in the pocket of his sports coat. It is sweaty in his hand. Mid-summer here, too hot for what he’s wearing.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love time travel, which is why this book has been on my to-read list for awhile. The means of time travel that the author sets up is unique, a House in which time seems to fold over on itself, where things happen simultaneously across eras. I liked this concept, more fantasy-based than sci-fi-based, so you don’t have to worry about the mechanics of how it works, it just does.

The book is told from multiple POVs (third person), including that of the serial killer himself. His sections get rather grisly and are not for those with weak stomachs. Kirby, the girl who managed to survive his attack, reminds me of a slightly-less-jaded Lisbeth Salander (from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Overall, it was an interesting concept, and the ‘magical House’ take on time travel was enough to hold my attention and keep me reading, but because of the nature of the narration — jumping back and forth in time with the characters, often re-living the same event more than once — it ends up being too predictable, and the main character Kirby spends most of the book simply researching and asking questions we already know the answer to, which kills any sense of suspense.

Heads up: lots of violence, gore, sex, language



The River of No Return

River of No Return

NEW this week…

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

1 of 5 stars (abandoned 55% through)

After jumping forward 200 years, a man is sent back to 1815 by a mysterious Guild in order to stop a group of time travelers with a different agenda.

Instead of the of the girl with the dark eyes he had the Guild.  The generous foster mother of time’s little orphans.  Generous and controlling… Controlling and maybe even murderous.

I really wanted to like this book.  Time travel, Regency era England, a mysterious society that controls time travel, what more could you ask for?

Well, for one, I could have asked for better characters.  Maybe it’s intentional, but the characters in this novel all seemed like horrible hypocrites.  I felt no sympathy for the arrogant playboy hero who gets offended when he’s asked to play the part of… an arrogant playboy.  I could not relate to the “noble and virtuous” heroine who spends the first half of the novel fighting fiercely to protect her reputation, and then within the course of a few pages throws herself at the hero, and yet still manages to look down on other women for doing the same thing.  Even the minor characters were dualistic.  They all irritated me, and it made it difficult for me to care about their fates.

Whereas the plot should have been exciting, the pacing seemed terribly slow.  After reading 200 pages, I couldn’t for the life of me understand what took up so many words!  I know for certain, though, that at least a couple of those pages were spent explaining the “time is a river” analogy (which is a very good one, and fits within my own time travel theories, but was over-explained ad nauseum).

The final straw for me was the sexual content.  It was dealt with in a way that was unnecessarily crude and diminished my opinions of the characters (see my paragraph on characterization above).  I stopped reading when it was revealed that the Guild’s big plan for bringing the protagonist back into the past was so that he could bed someone.

When I checked out other reviews on Goodreads, and a couple people noted that it ended on a cliffhanger, poised for a sequel, I threw in the towel.  No point in finishing a book I’m not enjoying if the ending doesn’t even resolve anything.

Yesterday’s Sun


Yesterday's SunYesterday’s Sun by Amanda Brooke

Pub: 2012 (now available in ebook format!)

3 of 5 stars

When Holly and Tom buy a house in the country, they also acquire a strange moon dial, with the ability to harness the power of the full moon and reveal the future, a future which shows Holly her death in childbirth and presents to her the choice of her life or her child’s.

Now I know what Charles Hardmonton must have known on his deathbed.  We are not meant to meddle with destiny.  It is too heavy a burden for any man, to have the ability to see into the future and then to accept that the path we take is not all of our own choosing.

I’m a huge fan of time travel stories, so the strange moon dial that reveals the future piqued my interest.

I enjoyed the “time travel” aspect, and the fact that the characters could change that future — though with restrictions! — kept me intrigued.  The moondial itself, its intricacies, and the stories (two backstories and Holly’s story) that it shaped were what fascinated me.  This book is strongly emotional, and really works to pull the reader’s heartstrings.

Unfortunately, I didn’t buy the Holly/Tom relationship, which is a shame, since it should be one of the most important relationships in the story.  But Tom was gone pretty much through the whole story, and when he was there, they were either talking about his job or enjoying marital intimacy (seriously… like every scene they’re together — I know they’re newlyweds, but yeah, we get the point).

There was also something about the ending that bothered me [highlight for spoiler]Jocelyn, the grandmotherly neighbor of the story, takes her own life in exchange for Holly’s, and apparently the moonstone buys this.  But how does Jocelyn’s sacrifice prevent Holly from having an aneurysm??  In the mystical life-for-a-life aspect, it works, but it defies all logic that going into the hospital, Holly would have an aneurysm, but that it’d suddenly disappear when the moonstone ‘accepted’ Jocelyn’s sacrifice.  I didn’t think that was at all how the moonstone worked — it would have made more sense if Jocelyn had somehow forced Holly into getting an MRI (to save her) and then killed herself (as the sacrifice, but[/spoiler] the way it played out made it seem logically that merely looking into the moonstone was the catalyst that cost the curious person the life of someone important to him/her, but that implication is kind of a big deal and should have been addressed earlier.

Also, to ease the minds of any pregnant women who may read this book and suddenly fear aneurysms: according to the February 2013 issue of Neurosurgery “For women with aneurysms involving the brain blood vessels, pregnancy and delivery don’t appear to increase the risk of aneurysm rupture” (LINK)

What other bloggers on the tour have to say about YESTERDAY’S SUN:

Tuesday, February 12th: A Patchwork of Books calls it “An intriguing concept!

Monday, February 18th: Luxury Reading says it’s “fast-paced and fun to read

Wednesday, February 20th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers liked that “EVERYTHING is enchanting and emotionally charged

Monday, February 25th: Speaking of Books

Tuesday, February 26th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, February 27th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Thursday, February 28th: Giraffe Days

Friday, March 1st: West Metro Mommy

Man in the Empty Suit

Man in the Empty Suit

NEW on shelves today…

Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The old man’s rheumy eyes watered at me. “Welcome to the secret club of the convention, boy. Now you know. This is where you die.”

Safe time travel requires rules, and the narrator of this one sticks to his, especially when he, every 365 days, returns to April 1, 2071 at a deserted hotel in a ruined Manhattan for a reunion with his past and future selves. But when he begins to break his own rules, starting with “#3 If it broke before, let it break again.” he finds himself trapped in his own paradox which leads to not only his own death six months in the future, but also the death of a beautiful stranger — both at the hands of another one of himselves. He now must work through the clues, not knowing which of himselves to trust, or which are even tethered to his own timeline.

The first chapters of this book left me giddy. Time travel is definitely one of my favorite genres (can I call it a genre all its own?) and the fact that — instead of avoiding his past and future selves — this time traveler blatantly laughs in the face of the time-space continuum and meets with dozens of himself at a time each year, despite the fact that he tends to despise all of these other versions of himself, to whom he gives clever and often self-depreciating nicknames like Seventy, Yellow, and The Nose. His self-hatred makes him an interesting character, where he can be both the hero, the victim, the suspect, and the villain all at the same time. My mind is still trying to wrap itself around how all of the pieces fit together.

There was, however, a large (six-month long) chunk in the middle where the narrator stayed in one time period, and although necessary to the story, my attention did wane and I found myself urging the narrator to get on with it and go to the party already. There were a few loose ends that left me a bit disjointed. Some of these things can be assumed (Highlight for Spoiler: For instance, I’m assuming Sober is himself in the future, perhaps actually a year older than Suit, but with Drunk’s watch, but it’s hard to tell which incarnations are tethered to the narrator’s timeline and which are not. ) Some can also be explained away by the untethered timeline which he creates (Highlight for Spoiler: Obviously Screwdriver has a mirror image tattoo, so he’s NOT part of the same timeline so we won’t hear his side of the events), but I’d have liked perhaps a bit more tidy resolution.

Heads up: There are a few single-paragraph sexual encounters, and quite a bit of cursing and swearing.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book!

Overall: The most mind-blowing time travel novel I’ve read, with enough paradoxes that I’m surprised the fabric of time and universe itself are still intact. My brain is still reeling.

Fans might also enjoy:

Darkness Creeping

Darkness CreepingDarkness Creeping by Neal Shusterman

4 of 5 stars

This short story collection features strange and eerie tales, including precursors to Shusterman’s Everlost and Full Tilt novels.

He flatly denied the existence of Jim-Jim Jeffries.  Marty was convinced it was just a made-up story, designed to keep small children from crossing dangerous streets to get ice cream.  Well, he wasn’t a small child anymore.  He didn’t believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or Jim-Jim Jeffries.

Neal Shusterman is one of my all-time favorite authors, but this was my first read-through of any of his short-story collections, and I was not disappointed.  Each tale is full of suspense and psychological thrills that are worthy of The Twilight Zone, and together, as a collection, they exhibit a wide variety of imaginative elements, ranging from ghost stories to monsters to tales of revenge.  While definitely macabre, Shusterman avoids being gory or overly gruesome; most stories would be deemed more “creepy” than “gross.”

My favorite short story in this collection was Screaming at the Wall, a new look at time travel that’s more strange and bizarre than it is scary.

Readers should be aware, however, that while twisted and strange, these tales aren’t necessarily the things of horror movies, and certainly not one of the scariest books I’ve ever read.  Though the warning on the back cover would convince you otherwise — they’re unlikely to induce nightmares, though they certainly may give the reader a serious aversion to punch bowls, chandeliers, and glass bathtubs.

Overall:  A compelling and imaginative collection of strange and eerie tales.

More tales of the bizarre and creepy…
The Book of Lost Things Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes Dark Eden (Dark Eden, #1) Reckless (Reckless, #1) Full Tilt

The Map of Time

Map of Time

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

3 of 5 stars

In three interwoven stories, H.G. Wells plays a reluctant role in helping solve characters’ time travel conflicts involving Jack the Ripper, a war hero who defeated automatons in the year 2000, and literary classics Bram Stoker and Henry James.

Claire marched off in the opposite direction of her companions, trying not to think of the consequences her unexpected act might have on the fabric of time.  She only hoped she would not destroy the universe i her bid to be happy.

This book is certainly unique, and one that — despite taking me an excruciatingly long time to work my way through — held my interest with its twists and turns.  The language is incredibly vivid, at times excessively so.  As the plot involves both time travel and the writing of fictional stories, it was the perfect book for me to read while completing NaNoWriMo.  I enjoyed the real-life references, and the author kept me guessing till the last pages.

However, this book seemed to have equal parts awesome and terrible.  Most of the characters were thoroughly unlikable — the men driven only by their desire for sex, and the women acting as simpering, passive plot devices.  Large chunks of the story — such as telling how the hole into the fourth dimension was discovered and transported to London — were lengthy and unnecessary; the characters did a fine job re-explaining it later in the novel anyways!  The final story of the three was the weakest, where the back and forth and parallel universes and such just made the story line hard to follow; the resolution pretty much involved negating half of the plot, a tactic I found frustrating and full of inconsistencies.

Overall: Might be a tough read unless you really love time travel or classic sci-fi.

Other books in this series:

Fans might also enjoy:

The Devil in the White City The Time Keeper The Time Machine

Man in the Empty Suit

Man in the Empty SuitMan in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publication date: February 5, 2013

Full review to be posted two weeks prior to release date

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book!

Overall: The most mind-blowing time travel novel I’ve read, with enough paradoxes that I’m surprised the fabric of time and universe itself are still intact. My brain is still reeling.

Fans might also enjoy:

The Time Paradox

The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, #6)The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even as he purred, Artemis winced at how ludicrous the situation had become. It was a typical Fowlesque melodrama. Two parties hunting for a lemur on the highest power lines in Ireland.

When Angeline Fowl falls deathly ill with a magical disease, Artemis enlists N01’s help, and together with Holly, travel back in time eight years to save a lemur from becoming extinct — at the hands of his own, 10-year-old self. His younger self proves to be one of the most formidable adversaries the pair have ever faced.

Of all of the Artemis Fowl books, this one is probably my favorite. Pitting the younger, more dastardly Artemis against his own older, more mature and selfless Artemis provides the opportunity for all kinds of clever jabs and one-liners, as well as accentuate just how far Artemis has come over the course of the series. And, of course, I’m always a sucker for time travel stories. Though this one definitely took a different direction, creating an actual paradox, which made for some interesting, mind-twisting situations, including a few surprisingly interesting lines by the younger Artemis at the very end.

A few things, though, that I wasn’t too fond of…
– A kiss. An unnecessary and awkward action that completely changes the dynamics that have been set up over the course of the series.
– The twins. They don’t really act like two-year-olds, but are too irritating for their supposed super-genius to really be impressive.
– A few inconsistencies. (highlight to view spoilers: If Mulch wasn’t mind-wiped, wouldn’t he have known Artemis in the first book of the series? If Opal really escaped LEP in the present-time, she wouldn’t be in the past to complete all her evil deeds from the previous books. Also, when he confronts the Extinctionists, the author describes Artemis’s blue eyes — he would have had one hazel!)
[If Mulch wasn’t mind-wiped, wouldn’t he have known Artemis in the first book of the series? If Opal really escaped LEP in the present-time, she wouldn’t be in the past to complete all her evil deeds from the previous books. Also, when he confronts the Extinctionists, the author describes Artemis’s blue eyes — he would have had one hazel! (hide spoiler)]

Heads up: More cartoon-like violence and fart jokes

Overall: A fun, exciting adventure back in time with our favorite teenage criminal mastermind-turned-teenage not-so-criminal mastermind.

The Lost Colony

The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, #5)The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl is finally putting his genius to use for good! While hacking the fairy’s network, he runs across some information on the lost colony of Hybras, where demons live in an alternate dimension. According to Artemis’ calculations, the demons are all in danger, as their time spell is unraveling, which will soon cause the destruction of their magical island and all those on it. When Artemis moves to act on his theory, however, he finds he isn’t the only one to have discovered the lapse — twelve-year-old Minerva, another child genius, has discovered the existence of the demons as well, and it’s up to Artemis and his friends to not only save the demons from their unstable time spell, but also from being put on display like zoo animals.

I do think of all the Artemis Fowl books, this is probably my least favorite. My love for the series, though, remains intact, because despite it’s shortcomings, this book still has a lot of the elements which make it a great book. I appreciate that Artemis is finally seeming to become a true protagonist, and a great friend to the other characters. His development in this book was true to his character, and showed his progress into a more noble Artemis that one can’t help but root for. This book also contained less technical mumbo-jumbo than some of the previous books, and it was nice to explore more of the magical/fairy world, rather than the technical and scientific aspects. Also, I’m a huge sucker for time travel books, and this one leaves few — if any — irritating time travel plot holes.

However, this one does introduce a number of new characters that are a bit lackluster — Doodah Day is a bit like a less-colorful Mulch; Minerva is less-exciting Artemis; and while No1 has his funny moments, there’s not really a whole lot that’s significantly unique about the demon species. The quips about Artemis going through puberty are a bit ridiculous, and the whole inclusion of Section Eight taking on not only Holly and Mulch, but also Foaly, was a little too neat and tidy, and turned out to be completely unnecessary at the end, when the situation at LEP changed anyways.

I think perhaps the author simply tried to get too much into one novel here, with the inclusion of three new allies, a new rival, at least two villains, and a whole new race of creatures. Regardless, if you can keep track of all that’s going on, it still works well with the series and is a very exciting read.

View all my reviews

The Intruders

IntrudersIntruders by Olive Peart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Six kids from the Bronx get swept forward in time through a mysterious tunnel and find themselves trapped in a dystopian future in which rapidly-aging human beings are the norm and others like themselves are considered Abnorms. The prejudices caused by these differences create a full-scale war between the Aborm village in the Bronx and the Trumen city of Manhattan, and the time travelers find themselves caught in the middle, unable to return home.

This book simply wasn’t my cup of tea… but, it had a lot of potential. I’m a huge fan of time travel novels, and the dystopian future world in which today’s “normal” kids are considered abnormal is an interesting twist.

A number of factors, though, prevented me from really enjoying this YA novel.

First off, there were some aspects of the writing style that did not appeal to me at all. “Shirts!” This was the phrase that the characters used when they wanted to curse. “Dog!” was another alternate phrase used. While I appreciate the lack of actual swearing, the use of these pseudo-swear words sounded a little absurd, particularly for a group of teens from the Bronx. In fact, it took me awhile to realize that these kids were supposed to be city kids at all.

When the teens later come upon the people from the future society, they find that they have different speech patterns, not too surprising since this was supposed to be hundreds of years in the future. The speech patterns, though, made it difficult to read their dialogue, since they’d replace any “not” with simply “no,” use very simple words and phrases, and change the order of some of their words, making them sound a bit like Yoda. I’d often have to read their sentences twice or three times to figure out what it was they were saying.

Perhaps it was because there were essentially six main characters, but I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. Aside from Hamid, who was supposed to be the main protagonist, the other time travel kids just kind of blended together for me. I know they were supposed to be representative of different races, but frankly, I couldn’t keep straight who was related to who or dating who, much less recall their physical attributes or personalities. The author went into detailed descriptions of their hair, skin, and family lives, but the way this information was presented made it rather forgettable. The characters seemed to do things all together as a group, or break out by gender, and there really wasn’t a lot to distinguish one character from another. Even their ages seemed to kind of confuse me, as they seemed to act younger than the ages they were supposed to be, yet they’re taking on responsibilities and roles that far surpass their ages.

It was obvious that the author was trying to make some sort of statement about race and discrimination, but I don’t think that the lesson came across strong enough. The six time travelers are from various races, and at one point they have a discussion about the use of derogatory names for different races. Later, they note that the new society doesn’t have as much differentiation between races — everyone seems to have mixed attributes — but the story never really works around to what the point of bringing all of this up is. The same holds true with their family issues; they’re discussed between the members of the group, but then nothing comes of it.

In fact, I’m not entirely sure what the point of the book was. There was very little backstory given for any of the characters, and the ending seemed incredibly abrupt. I was still left with about a dozen questions and there were quite a few things that just simply didn’t make sense. Each of the time travelers paired off with romantic interests, but there was little to no development of these relationships. Even with the battle they fought, nothing was really resolved at the end of their fight. Was this supposed to be the first book in a series? I was left hanging, and felt rather let down by the ending.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me a review copy of this novel!

View all my reviews

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