Sunday, April 20, 2014

Meh and Meh Part Two

I hope it doesn't seem that I request ARCs of books only to turn around and totally rip them to shreds.  Or just plain give up on them.

That happens often, but I do find wonderful, fantastic books in my ARC pile.  Notably: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, The Pretenders, The Faceless One, and Wink all spring to mind.  Unfortunately, the old saw about sifting through the chaff applies here as where as anywhere else.

The two ARCs I recently had to admit to myself that I simply couldn't finish were both ones that I had had hopes for.  Not excessively high hopes, mind, but hopes nonetheless.  Alas, alack, and woe is me.

First up: Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon.  I received this as an ARC from Netgalley.

Airships?  Check.  Heroine disguised as boy?  Check.  Alternate reality?  Check.  This seemed like a very straightforward entry-level steampunk, but it never really went anywhere.  It was like a dirigible with too much ballast.  The narrative lumbered and stuttered instead of soaring and swooping.

I admit that I was really taken with Saxon's vision of the alternate past/future/present/who knows.  Catherine's parents are aristocracy, and therefore have all the advantages that come with being born into high positions.  Her father is a minister of something-or-other, which makes him unpopular with the populace at large.  Her mother is a recluse.  She's doomed to be married off to this absolutely vile son of an aristocrat, and so she does what any sensible girl would do: she runs away.  So far, I was in approval.  She cuts her hair, reinvents herself as "Cat," and stows away aboard a skyship.  Here's where everything began to break down for me.

Generally, in steampunk (and I'm not saying all the time, so don't get all technical on me here), the ships are either dirigibles or some sort of steam-powered contraption or something quasi-organic (see: Scott Westerfeld).  As far as I could make out, in Cat's world, people navigate in what are basically sailing ships but in the air.  I don't really understand the mechanics of this world, and the tell is that I don't think the author does either.  She didn't make me believe in these ships.

Once aboard the improbable ship, Cat, being adorable and useful, is adopted by the crew and tutored by Fox, who is, naturally, exceedingly foxy and Cat's love interest.  The ship flies to Siberene (Russia?) which is supposed to be undergoing some sort of horrible war but ... not all is as it seems!

Then she goes pickpocketing with absolutely zero experience but overhears Anglyan (that's her nation) soldiers talking about a Big Cover-Up and while she is listening she gets caught but rescued by Fox and then her shirt comes off as normally happens and he sees her boobs and is like, "Whoa, it's a chick!"

At this point I had to stop.  I was pretty sure I could figure out what was going to happen in the rest of the book, and none of the characters or plot points were compelling enough to make me want to read further.  

I realize that Saxon is a very young writer--18, I think--and she has potential, but this needs to be polished and she needs to bust out of just doing what everyone else does.  It reads a little like Leviathan fanfic.  No, not the Hobbes Leviathan.

Meh DNF part two:

The Bird Eater by Ania Ahlborn

I received this from the Amazon First Reads.  Basically, you get a free ebook at the beginning of the month to review.  The only one that I really liked was The Faceless One by Mark Onspaugh--the rest have been duds (for me).  I was hoping The Bird Eater would make up for that with a good old spooky story, but nope.  It was more of a "whaa?" story that could have been spooky-ish going on, but I got so distracted by the boringness of the beginning that it was just not worth my time.  Which sounds really mean, but it's true.  I have a gajillion other books waiting to be read.  I'm not going to read something that is already giving me bad vibes.

Here is the plot of The Bird Eater as I divined it by 9% in:

House has ghost.
Ghost makes people go crazy.
Ghost kills people.
Boy orphaned by ghost comes back after personal tragedy (OF COURSE PERSONAL TRAGEDY) to investigate/reopen old wounds.
Ghost attacks.
Everybody dies (I don't really know about the last one, but the author seemed like she was trying to do Stephen King, so I'm pretty sure that means the protagonist dies).

I assume there are also birds involved but I didn't get that far into things.  I guess the ghost gets mad about cruelty to birds???

Some people on Goodreads were saying it was really freaky but it's not enough for something to be spooky.  It has to be well-written, engaging, with memorable characters and a plot that makes sense in the world where it is set.  

Short reviews tonight because for some reason my hands are all swollen and painful.  JUST WHAT I NEED.


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