Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Among The Ten Thousand Things

23503361Title: Among The Ten Thousand Things
Author: Julia Pierpoint 
Series:  N/A
Publisher: Random House
Published: July 7th, 2015
Format: Kindle ARC
Pages: 336
Dates Read: July 8-19th
Source: Received from publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review
Add on Goodreads
My Rating: 2 Stars
Snippet That Stuck With Me: N/A

Synopsis: or fans of Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Among the Ten Thousand Things is a dazzling first novel, a portrait of an American family on the cusp of irrevocable change, and a startlingly original story of love and time lost.

Jack Shanley is a well-known New York artist, charming and vain, who doesn’t mean to plunge his family into crisis. His wife, Deb, gladly left behind a difficult career as a dancer to raise the two children she adores. In the ensuing years, she has mostly avoided coming face-to-face with the weaknesses of the man she married. But then an anonymously sent package arrives in the mail: a cardboard box containing sheaves of printed emails chronicling Jack’s secret life. The package is addressed to Deb, but it’s delivered into the wrong hands: her children’s.

With this vertiginous opening begins a debut that is by turns funny, wise, and indescribably moving. As the Shanleys spin apart into separate orbits, leaving New York in an attempt to regain their bearings, fifteen-year-old Simon feels the allure of adult freedoms for the first time, while eleven-year-old Kay wanders precariously into a grown-up world she can’t possibly understand. Writing with extraordinary precision, humor, and beauty, Julia Pierpont has crafted a timeless, hugely enjoyable novel about the bonds of family life—their brittleness, and their resilience

Melissa's Musings:

What originally drew me to this book was the synopsis. I couldn't imagine something like this happening to a family. Sure, affairs happen far too often. But for one of the participants to print out all the emails and conversations and send it to the wife of her lover, and instead it falls into the children's hands? I had to read about what would happen after that.

Sadly, despite the synopsis and the promise of that story, the book was a huge letdown.

The main thing that took away from this book for me is the sequence jumping. I don't think I've ever read a book where the story is told out of sequence. It's very unsettling. You start out as the story unfolds and the box is delivered. Then in part two, everyone ages, and you find out what eventually happens to the entire family as they go through life. Part three is a jump back to the past and the summer adventures directly after the box. Part four is somewhere between 3 and 2. The last line of the book had me saying "Seriously? That's it?" to myself.

I felt almost no connection to the characters. The story felt detached, the phrasing blurted out in rough, but descriptive sentences. I think I kept reading the book hoping that it would redeem itself somehow. That somewhere along the way,  story would start taking a deeper turn, and you'd really start to get into the characters thoughts as they went through this experience.

I was hoping for a look into the minds of the kids, and how Simon and Kay would process and deal with their father's affair. Simon reacts in anger, Kay seems to shrink away into herself. But there's no deeper processing beyond that.

 I wanted more from Deborah too, more than to see her just run away for the summer. And more from Jack, than just seeing him wrap himself in his work and run off to Arizona.

The synopsis promised a story that was funny, wise, and indescribably moving. I found it to be none of these things. I did enjoy bits and pieces of the writing, but that's probably the only thing that kept me from giving the story only one star. If I could sum up the book I would say it reminds me of Jack's installation art piece. An attempt to see inside the destruction of a demolition site that ends up detonating in disappointment one last time unexpectedly, just like his failed art show detonates unexpectedly injuring that woman. Only the ending of the book leaves the reader slightly injured and disappointed.

Have you read this? What did you think of it?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review: Hera, Queen of Gods

Hera, Queen of Gods (Goddess Unbound, #1)Title: Hera, Queen of Gods
Author: T.D. Thomas
Series: Goddess Unbound # 1
Publisher: Self Published
Published: October 3, 2012
Format: Kindle
Pages: 536
Dates Read: June 26-July 5
Source: Received from the author
in exchange for an honest review
Add on Goodreads
My Rating: 3 Stars
Hera couldn't care less what the other gods think, even when it's about her. And it often is. Frankly, Hera couldn't care less about anything, except doing her duty as queen - protecting order and defending the mortal world against any threats. But when the Fates go missing, Hera and a handful of other gods must temporarily become mortal to search the human world for the missing goddesses.

Hera finds that mortality begins to change her. It's not just the loss of her divine powers. She expected that. It's deeper somehow. It's affecting how she thinks, how she feels, what's important to her. And it gets much worse after she meets Justin, who defies every prejudice she once had
about mortals. At the worst possible time, and despite all her efforts, Hera's black-and-white world starts to unravel.

Torn between who she's becoming and who she needs to be in order to fulfill her duty, Hera must survive a horde of murderous creatures sent to exploit her new weakness. In the end, only Hera can stop a traitorous plot conceived by a secret alliance of ancient and new enemies, a plot that threatens to destroy not only the order Hera is sworn to protect, but all of existence itself

Melissa's Musings

I have to admit, my knowledge of Greek Mythology is a little sparse, given that the only time I remember learning about it was in 6th grade, and that was now several years ago. At first, I was tempted to Google and fact check the powers and roles of all the different gods that were mentioned, but I decided to let myself get carried away into the story instead.

I do have to say though that I've never read a story that put such a modern twist on the subject before. I really liked the fact that Thomas set the story with these gods and goddesses inhabiting the bodies of teenagers. Definitely not something you would expect.

The story progresses quickly and is quite action packed. A little too much so, if I'm being honest. Once the story got going it seemed like the characters were constantly battling/running from something. First it's half man half bear. Then, it's snakes. And then a giant. And harpies, among other things.

While all this action definitely makes you want to keep turning the pages, it really takes away from the character development. I felt like the story was more about the action and less about the characters themselves.

If I had to pick a favorite though, it would be Hera. She's strong, somewhat closed off, but also has a softer side. Her spark with Justin is an interesting twist too, given that she despises the fact that Zeus falls for mortals all the time. But, since Justin becomes a Dreamer throughout the course of the story maybe it's just a little different for her?

Justin's ability to move to and from the Dreamlands was also an unexpected twist. It felt like a reward for all the stuff he was quickly expected to believe and go along with when he started helping the gods on their mission to find the Fates.

There's also an element of magic in the story which was an interesting touch as well.

This was a unique story, and, despite a little too much action I'm curious to see what else happens to these characters.

Has anyone else read this? Or would you recommend any other stories that feature Greek mythology?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Review: Spelled

SpelledTitle: Spelled
Author: Betsy Schow
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published: June 2, 2015
Format: E-ARC
Pages: 352
Dates Read: June 6-8
Source: Recieved via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review
Add on Goodreads
My Rating: 3 Stars
Snippet That Stuck With Me: N/A 

Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after. 

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called "Kansas." Now it's up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse...before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

Melissa's Musings

The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. I was browsing Netgalley, and came across Spelled, saw the cover and thought "Hmm, that looks interesting."

I'm not all that big on retellings and don't read them all that often, but when I read the sysnopsis for this, it seemed like it would be fun.

And it is.

 From the very beginning the story is full of curiosity, action and adventure. Dorothea is looking for a way to escape her boring palace life, where she is literally trapped by a curse. Fire is banished from the palace and she isn't even allowed outside beyond the courtyard, not even for a little while.

Little does she know that one tiny wish can have a huge impact on her life and the lives of those around her. 

The first thing that I liked, as I read were all the interesting plays on words and puns. There are a ton of them so I'll only give one example, UPS = United Pegasus Service. This one actually made me laugh out loud just because it was the slightest bit out there and Dorothea was so annoyed at the time, so the juxtaposition of the two made me giggle. There are also cute little plays on words like some of the substitute swear words, ie "pixed" and "glammed."

Plus, there are guidelines and quotes from other famous fairytale characters at the beginning of each chapter. These are a fun way to modernize the fairy tales.

There are also countless references to every possible fairy tale you can imagine. It's like a serious mashup of every fairy tale ever written interspersed within this story. And while these references, and the language and quotes are a lot of fun at first, I do have to say I did eventually grow bored of these, about halfway through. They just started to get tired, and eventually lost their sparkle.

As for the characters, I'd have to say my least favorite is probably a toss up between Rexi and Dorothea. Rexi lives up to her description and by the other characters and is rude and has a charred exterior. Dorothea fits the spoiled princess role a little too well. I was disappointed not to see more growth from her throughout the story. And while most of the time the main character is what keeps you reading, for me it was all the other characters that kept me going. I felt like they were more interesting.

Especially Hydra. With her large collection of ever changing heads and constant personality switches to go along with them , I feel like she brings a lot of life and fun to the story.

There is a lot of action and adventure. Plus there's the emphasis on fashion, beauty and just the idea of being a princess, so it makes the story equally relatable to both guys and girls. The ending is left open for a sequel, so I imagine there will be one. 

And I'm definitely willing to read it. As much as the quotes, quips and references do get a bit old  they've left me curious to see what will happen to this cast of crazy characters. I just hope that in the next part of the story Dorthea really starts to grow into her own a lot more and mature as a character.

Have you read Spelled? Did you enjoy it? Are there any other versions of retellings you'd recommend that I read?