Malin’s #CBR5 Review #156: Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews – triple Cannonball!

It’s my last book of the year, and I’m feeling a bit worn out after a LOT of blogging, so I’m taking the liberty of letting the authors themselves summarise the book (it’s self published), because Ilona writes way better than I:

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problems should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. 

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor Sean Evans – an alpha-strain werewolf – and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her Inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she is facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything. 

Full review on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #155: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

My penultimate book of the year, and the final book in my 2013 Bingo Card. Louisa “Lou” Clark loses her job as a cafe and has to take a job as a care assistant for a rich playboy adventurer who’s ended up paraplegic in a wheelchair after an accident. He’s absolutely vile to her at first, but they gradually develop a friendship and an understanding. Then Lou realises that he plans to travel to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide at the end of her six month contract, and decides she needs to change his mind.

Full review.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #154: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Having lost his job as a web developer due to the recession, Clay Jannon finds a new job as the night clerk in the titular bookstore, belonging to the mysterious Mr. Penumbra. Not that he sells all that many books. As well as the normal shelves, with its somewhat eclectic selection of novels and non fiction, there is what Clay calls the “wayback” section of the store, huge shelves of unique volumes, not to be found in any search engine, a sort of strange lending library for the odd individuals who show up with a laminated cards, returning a volume and fetching another at random intervals. Clay is asked to keep a log, describing the appearance of each of the customers and the state of mind each new customer was in when they come to swap a book.

Clay starts using his web developer skills to make a 3D-model of the store and the “wayback” section on his computer, trying to see if there’s any pattern, rhyme or reason to the strange regulars and their lending patterns. He also works on trying to lure new customers to the store, using all the tools available to him in social media to advertise its location. Once he meets Kat, a young lady working at Google, his plans to map the mysterious patterns of Mr. Penumbra’s store really take off, and soon he and his friends are involved in a mysterious quest involving a global conspiracy, a secret organisation, code breaking, data visualisation on a massive scale and possibly the secret to eternal life.

Full review.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #153: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

This is such a very difficult book to review, as to give away too much of the plot, or say too much about the characters would ruin the reading experience of those yet to read it.

Each chapter starts with a quote from a famous author about the art of writing, the art of creating fiction or just lying. “The truth is beautiful. Without doubt; and so are lies.” is the first one. In the first section of the book: “What was lost”, our unnamed narrator starts telling us about his childhood, waiting in Terminal B of an unnamed airport for his flight attendant mother to come back from wherever she’d gone to next. We’re told how the twenty-two page adventure story he wrote (with illustrations) was lost when the man who ran the watch repair suddenly collapsed, and the book was thrown away. He tells us about going to a debutante ball because the brother of the girl he fancied was injured on a golf course shortly before, about going to college and starting to write in earnest, striking up a friendship and life long rivalry with the mysterious and charismatic Julian. At college he also meets the glamorous Evelyn, a promising actress, who may or may not be the love of his life.

Full review.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #152: Vampire Science by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman

2.5 stars

In 1976 a young med student named Carolyn meets the eight Doctor and his teenage companion Sam, while they’re trying to stop Eva, a vampire, from killing a young woman. Having never realised that there was such a thing as vampires, time travel or exciting individuals like the Time Lord and his companion, Carolyn’s word is forever altered, but despite an unspoken invitation to join the Doctor on his continued adventures, Carolyn chooses to take the injured woman to the ER and worry about her upcoming exam instead.

Twenty years later, there are clearly vampires in San Francisco again. Carolyn is a doctor herself now and has made great strides to fulfil her dream of finding a cure for cancer. She has a good life, and a dependable lighting technician boyfriend, but when the Doctor and Sam appear again, barely changed from when she met them two decades ago, she starts to wonder if she made the right choice.

More on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #151: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

In 2060, disgraced Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz is the only survivor left after an expedition to the planet of Rakhat. He’s grievously injured, both physically and mentally, and refuses to speak to the investigators who are desperate to find out what went wrong, far away on the alien planet. Sandoz stands accused of some pretty terrible crimes, and slowly the story of what took place several light years away is revealed.

Proof of extra terrestrial life is discovered in 2019 in a small and fairly insignificant listening post in Puerto Rico. While the United Nations and other global powers are still trying to figure out what to do about the discovery, the Jesuits organise a scientific mission in secret, sending eight people to the newly discovered planet, Rakhat, hoping to establish communication and peaceful relations with the aliens whose heartbreaking songs proved their existence on Earth. Emilio is one of the eight, and at least six of the other members of the exploration crew are close personal friends of his. “They meant no harm” is the final line in the prologue, and it’s such an ominous hint of what’s to come in the rest of the novel.

Full review.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #150: Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

Zel lives in a remote cottage in the mountains with Mother. The only time she sees other people is twice a year, when they go to Market in the nearest town, quite some distance away. While Zel finds the people, bustle and excitement of town life exhilarating, Mother insists that they have everything that they need in their little home, and warns her daughter away from strangers. Yet Zel dreams of a different life, of some day having a husband and children and a home of her own. Just before her thirteenth birthday, she meets a beautiful young man with a spirited horse, and she can’t seem to get him out of her mind.

Konrad, the young count, is also unable to forget the young girl he met in the marketplace, and who seemed to almost magically calm his horse. Even when his parents try to arrange suitable marriages for him with lovely young maidens, he refuses, riding around the countryside trying to find out where the mysterious Zel can be found.

Mother grows anxious and worried when Zel mentions the pretty young man, and claims that there are bad people out there who want to harm them. She takes Zel to an abandoned tower, a fair distance from even their remote cottage, and before Zel realises entirely what is going on, she is trapped high above ground, with no way of escaping, with Mother on the ground, saying she will keep the bad people away. Zel’s hair starts growing at a furious rate, until she can pull Mother in and out of the tower with it. Lonely and distressed, the young girl dreams about the young man, and tries to while away the months and years of her imprisonment. She’s fairly sure she’s gone entirely mad, when one day there is a call for her to let down her hair, and count Konrad climbs in instead of Mother.

This is a short read, and an interesting retelling of the story of Rapunzel. Some of the chapters are narrated in third person, and show Zel and Konrad’s point of views. The ones from Mother’s POV are in first person, making her account the most personal of the three, and making the reader empathise more with her, even as she’s the nominal villain of the story. The witch who forced a young couple to give away their child in return for the Rapunzel salad they had stolen from her garden, who locks the girl in a tall tower to keep her away from all others – Mother is more than this here. A frustrated and intelligent woman given a tempting choice, incredible power over all growing things in return for a soul she might not even believe she has, who finds herself barren and alone, willing to do anything to gain a child, and who loves that child so much that she’s determined to do anything to keep her, even if it means making the girl possibly hate her. Mother can’t bear to lose her beloved daughter, but when it becomes clear that she may have caused her more harm than good, she makes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure her daughter’s eventual happiness.