Tag Archives: 1.5 stars

The Night-Bird’s Feather by Jenna Katerin Moran

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Stars: 1.5 out of 5.

Well, this book was a big disappointment, to tell you the truth. I love fairy tales. I love modern retellings of said fairy tales, if they are well done. And that’s a big IF. Especially when it comes to retellings of Slavic tales, because they are near and dear to my heart. I grew up with them.

Unfortunately, we don’t really have a retelling here of anything. Honestly, if you had switched the Russian names of the main characters to typical English names, the story wouldn’t have changed much at all. Peppering the story with typical Russian or Ukrainian dishes or things doesn’t build an exotic atmosphere, like the author probably intended. It just served to irritate me.

The biggest problem with this book though is that it has no soul. Sure, the author can write pretty sentences, but that isn’t enough to make a good story. The characters feel flat and one-dimensional. Even Valentina, our protagonist whom we spend most of the book with, is extremely boring. I don’t know what makes her tick. I don’t know what her dreams and fears are. 

The author tells us she wants to kill the Headmaster of the Bleak Academy because he took something from her, but what he took is described so vaguely, that I still don’t understand what the big deal is. So you are made of blood and bones, and you can hear your heart beat. Big deal.

Same goes for the story of her falling in love… with a man she never spoke to, just saw in passing and heard play the piano. Sure, the author tells us that, but there is not a shred of feeling of it in the actual story. There is no feeling in the story at all, to tell you the truth. It’s all very dry and soulless, if prettily written.

My other problem is that this world makes no sense. The author mentions that this was the land of eternal darkness until Valentina brought the sun to it and created the separation between night and day. Okay, I can get on board with that, but explain to me how this works? How do people grow crops in darkness? How do they survive without night and day? How do they travel about? Where do they get all the resources necessary to light their town? How do animals and trees survive there? 

See, real fairy tales always have an inner logic and a rigid set of rules, no matter how fantastical those rules seem compared to our world. And characters, monsters, and even natural events follow those rules. In this book though, the rules are never explained, so the reasons behind why some things happen are very nebulous and often make no sense. If I can’t make sense of that’s happening, I won’t be invested in the story.

To summarize, don’t bother with this book if you like fairy tale retellings. There are much better books out there. Like Greymist Fair by Francesca Zappia (sponsored link), for example.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle

Stars: 1.5 out of 5.

Pfew, glad I’m finally done with this book. It’s not particularly long, but boy it dragged. 

Truth be told, I only picked it up because the blurb promised time travel and dinosaurs. Unfortunately, there is precious little of them in this story. And that timeline is completely ignored for the last 50% of the book, much to my disappointment. Also, how can you make a story of survival at the time of dinosaurs boring? I thought that was impossible.

The characters are also nothing to write home about. And what I mean by that is that they are lifeless. They are just concepts with a few distinct traits and flaws to differentiate them by, not real fleshed out characters. Adeline is the worst offender in this department. Too bad she is the one we follow the most in this book. By the time the author completely drops Sam’s story at the time of the big reptiles and focuses solely on Adeline and her valiant attempt at making her life even more boring than it was, I was sorely tempted to just DNF this book. But I had already read about 67% of the story, so I felt bad for my time investment and wanted to at least see this through and find out what this murder mystery was all about. 

Spoiler alert – it makes no sense whatsoever. Turns out the murder is not really a murder, so all the pain and suffering for Sam and Adeline was for no good reason at all. Also, that whole plot twist with Adeline’s time travel served no particular point either. 

And the ending… don’t start me on the ending. Are we really supposed to think that his little utopia island of theirs is supposed to be a paradise on earth? These people are effectively prisoners there until they die. How long before some of them decide they had enough and stage an insurrection? 

Also, what was the point of this story? The murder wasn’t really a murder, so the driving factor behind all this is moot. The end result is also deeply unsatisfying. 

The writing stile was also very dry and impersonal. That coupled with one-dimensional characters made it very hard to stay engaged in the story or to care about what was happening at all. I don’t think I will pick up another book by this author.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The End of Sleep by Vyvyan Evans

Stars: 1.5 out of 5

I didn’t mesh with this book at all, unfortunately. Part of it was because the ARC was horrendously formatted, making it almost impossible to read and follow the story. But my biggest problem was with the protagonist.

I hated Lilith from the first pages of the book until the very end. She has no redeeming qualities. She is self-centered to the extreme. She is cruel and disparaging to anyone she feels is below her in social status (spoil alert, it’s everyone in her eyes). She hates all men, and she even repeats that several times during the book. Mind you, she doesn’t have a much better opinion of women either. I mean just look at the way she treats her one night stand in the first chapter of the book. It’s cruel, it’s shameful, and it’s uncalled for.

Add to that the fact that Lilith is a half-alien with superpowers, and we get the typical trope of the Chosen one that can do no wrong. When she acquires those powers, there is no learning curve, no mess-ups, no time to get used to them. She knows how to use them from the start and does it with frightening efficiency. Unfortunately, that also kills the tension in the book. Why worry about the characters if Lilith can make all the problems go away with a wave of her hand? She is literally like a Terminator against a mob of medieval peasants with pitchforks by the end of the book – overpowered to the extreme. Which makes the end of the book boring as fish.

My other issue is that Lilith says several times that she is only attracted to women and that hates all men after a certain traumatic event that happened in her past. So the insta-love, or should I say insta-lust, between her and her partner comes across as forced and unnatural. Also, why? This love line wasn’t needed in this book.

Oh, and this book could have been at least 100 pages shorter without loosing any of the story. The first 15% of the book is basically an infodump with Lilith talking to various unimportant people about things that should be self-explanatory in their world, but since the reader doesn’t know them, they have to be spelled out. Which makes the other characters look dumb and Lilith sound pedantic and condescending. This is also rookie author mistake 101. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Curfew by Jayne Cowie

Stars: 1.5 out of 5.

This is the case where the blurb is more interesting than the actual book. Or where the author had a wonderful idea, but lacked the skill to realize it well. It could have been a wonderful dystopian novel and a great social commentary. Instead, it turned into a frustrating slog that I only finished out of frustration.

As I said, the premise had so much potential – after a wave of violent crimes against women perpetrated by men, a resolution was passed to put all the male population under a curfew from 7pm to 7am each night. And supposedly, things got better for women after that… for 16 years. Until a woman if found clearly murdered in a park overnight, when all men should be indoors. So who killed her? 

I got excited to see how this society, where women are effectively in charge, would work. How is the curfew enforced? Are those ankle monitors removable? Can they be fooled? How did men consent to this clear violation of their freedom? I was also looking forward to the murder mystery and the investigation. Unfortunately, the inherent flaws of this book sabotaged my enjoyment in the end. 

This book is told in several different POVs, which in itself isn’t usually a problem for me. The problem this time is that all of the characters we follow are extremely unlikeable. They are self-centered and react emotionally to anything and everything happening to and around them. What happened to logical thinking? What happened to compassion? 

This makes this whole women-ran society a nightmarish place to be. Which would be okay if this was a subtitle social commentary about vilifying the other genre and critique of normal genre role. But it’s not…

Second problem is that there are no shades of gray in this book. All men, without exceptions, are bad, bad, bad, BAD! Seriously? Being a survivor of abuse myself, I can understand the impulse to vilify those who hurt you, but this is taken to the extreme. What about the fact that the toxic image of masculinity that is so prevalent in the Western countries hurts men just as much as it hurts women? Neither sex is born bad or good, they are made so by their upbringing and their circumstances. It’s nature versus nurture.

Also, this world is very binary. So all women are free, and all men are locked up at night (and BAD people thinking/doing bad things). What about gay men? What about gender fluid people? What about trans men and women? How do these rules apply to them? Or do they simply not exist in this world?

The murder investigation itself was also very badly handled in my opinion. This whole mystery of who was the murder victim was dragged out way too long. I would have preferred to discover their identity earlier and then try to find out what events resulted in their murder, than following several people who could be the potential murder victim and guessing who it was. I guess the author wanted to create a connection with the victim by having us following their life before the murder. Well, since all of them were unlikeable, I didn’t particularly care.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Fortress at the End of Time by Joe M. McDermott.

Stars: 1.5 out of 5

Once in a while, I come across books that make me wonder what the author was thinking when he wrote them. Why did he think that this particular idea would make a good book? Well, Fortress at the End of Time is one of them. It almost landed in my DNF (did not finish) pile, but I received an advanced copy of it and had promised to write a review, and I don’t think it’s fair to write reviews on books I didn’t finish. So I had to suck it up and read it to the very end. It was a struggle.

I have several problems with this book one of which is the glacial pace at which the story progresses. It is so incredibly sluggishly slow. I mean a snail could move faster than this book does. And I have read some books with a slow pacing before and loved them to pieces, but that was because I was in love with the story they were telling. I didn’t mind that the narrative was slow because I was immersed in the world and the characters and I didn’t want the book to end.

Unfortunately, it is not the case here. The story is not only slow, but also boring. There is no great evil mastermind to defeat, no life or death situations, no real mystery or conflict even. Just a bunch of people stuck in the butthole of the known galaxy on a crumbling space station. Maybe that’s what the author wanted to portray – how tedious and boring such a life could be? How it brought the worse in people?

Granted, it could have been an interesting exploration into the dark depths of human psyche and what we are capable of out of sheer boredom when there is no visible end to the misery in sight. And I would have been on board with that IF the author had managed to make that exploration interesting. As this book stands, it feels like the reader is serving a prison sentence along with the characters – its long, boring and I couldn’t wait to be done with it.

Still, this book could still have been redeemed if we had some interesting characters to bond with. I could have suffered through the slow pacing and the lackluster story if I cared for the characters. I’ve done that before. Unfortunately, this is not the case here.

Try as I may, I never managed to bond with Captain Ronaldo Aldo, or even like him enough to care what would happen to him. He is selfish, self-centered and narcissistic. He thinks that he is better than everyone else and that he knows best what to do in any situation, nevermind the fact that others have been here for longer and have more experience managing people. He never listens to other people’s advice, and often goes AGAINST that advice even when his actions have disastrous consequences time and time again. That’s not a protagonist I want to follow for 272 long sluggish pages, thank you very much.

As for secondary characters… there are none. Oh, there are characters aplenty on the station and the planet it orbits around, but they have no personality of their own beyond a role they play in Aldo’s story. We have the typical love interest and the love rival, and the corrupted superior officer the protagonist has to work with. It doesn’t matter what face those tropes wear and what names they respond to. They are forgettable and interchangeable.

So all in all, I don’t recommend this book. If you like sci-fi, there are plenty of other books on the subject with better stories and characters. Save yourself some time and frustration and pass this one up.

PS. I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.