Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Reading Lists 2016: Ranked Reading List 3

*Not pictured: Chasing Ivan by Tim Tigner (ebook)
#10: The Barcode Tattoo
Suzanne Weyn
Disappointing and flaky. Where do I even start with this one? Granted, Weyn's contribution to Cameron Dokey's series of fairytale retellings is my least favorite of what I have read so far—but I was hoping her sci-fi dystopian was at least a little better. The premise certainly sounded interesting in a "I could see this happening in my lifetime" kind of way: everybody of a certain age gets a barcode tattoo that ostensibly holds all their identification records: school, medical, criminal, political, etc. There's just one hitch, which becomes the crux of the book: if the government deems you as a threat, they can cancel your barcode and then you're a "nobody" to society--and they can also alter your records to make you seem like a bigger threat to society than you are, and everybody would rather believe what the government says about you than what your own behavior says, anyway.
Yeah.... it kind of went downhill from there. Not even a little bit interesting, in spite of the gathering of wannabe teen rebels seeking to game the system--till one of their own is perceived as working with the government... or something. Then the main character gets some kind of supernatural vision/seer powers?? Yikes. The characters were flat and stereotypical, the "threat" not all that threatening, and the whole thing came off as not very memorable. Blah.

Author's Tagline: Europe's smartest criminal, versus America's best spy. And then there's poor Emily, stuck in between.
Honest Tagline: Discount Mission: Impossible Meets Every Cliche You Can Pack Into An Action Film... Er, Novel... Novella.
This was one of the very few requests for reviews I have received from an already-established author—only this guy, I'd never heard of. Apparently he hit up Goodreads for anybody who reads the thriller genre in the hopes of getting some extra free marketing. He lured me with comparisons between him and David Baldacci, by whom I have only read one book I did not enjoy. I went in expecting at LEAST that. I mean, this is a professional author, not an indie self-published newb. At least his bio is rather impressive, and this isn't his first rodeo.
The novella, considerably less so. I wasn't compelled to root for a girl who was stupid enough to leave her phone behind at the request of a blind date (SPOILER: it's the master criminal wanted by the CIA, who wants to use her to coerce her dad because he's running for Parliament or something!), I more resented the fact that the book subscribed heavily to the "My CIA Handler Is A Desk Jockey And A Tool Looking For A Promotion" trope, and quite frankly, I could care less that the "rogue agent" was freakishly good looking, super-agile, and every superlative you can cram into a chiseled, tanned body. Blah. No thrills here. (I did give it 4 stars because it handled all the tropes without digressing into a complete disaster, but out of all the 10 books I read, yep, it gets a low rank)

#8: The Hidden Hand
E.D.E.N. Southworth

Generic and slow, ponderous, and only half of it any good. I picked this one up because it had been some time since I read anything that could be considered a "classic." This one I had heard of from a few friends, and we had it, so I figured I might as well read it.
If nothing else, this book served as a lesson about how far I had come in my reading tastes. There was a time when this would have been my kind of adventure novel—back in my tween years, I relished the idea of immaculate girls with rich uncles who had nothing to do but have amazing adventures and be absolutely rebellious and get into scrapes, but they save the day, so all is forgiven. Looking at it now, I realized how plain and blasé the writing style actually is, considering that I was absolutely bored out of my skull till about halfway through the book—and from there I could pretty much predict the outcome of every choice. Very formulaic and typical. Okay, but unimpressive.

#7: The Book of Beasts (Hollow Earth #3)
John and Carole Barrowman

It's good when a story begins with a sigh and ends with a laugh. I have waited YEARS for this book... Well, okay, I ended up reading it exactly one year after I read the first one. There was the conflict, the characters who were my favorite were still my favorite, they defeated the bad guy, all the loose ends are firmly tied. Wasn't as sensational as I remembered, but it was fairly decent. The book definitely makes sure to deliver enough closure that the reader isn't hankering for more. Keep reading, though, for a book that REALLY brings it home at the end of a trilogy!

#6: A Blink of The Screen
Terry Pratchett

Pleasant, entertaining... A bit scattered, but that is to be expected. Pratchett is a master at telling an entire story with the fewest words possible. Each was only a few pages long, but the observations of the prose were more of a focus than the characters themselves. Every so often there would be an entertaining character in a one-shot tale, but then those would be interspersed with crazy things full of satirical double-entendre that would sail right over my head and I would be left confused as to what on earth was really going on. Still, it was pretty good.

#5: Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2)
William Ritter

A wonderful follow-up adventure for characters we've only just begun to meet as of the first book. This book does everything a sequel should do. The working relationship between Jackaby and Abigail has been established, so Ritter wisely looks elsewhere at other character interactions to probe and develop. And not just the budding relationship between Abigail and Charlie, but also Jenny who is developing as a character, and of course, seeing Jackaby at work outside of his usual stomping grounds. It's wonderful, it's wild, and there may be dragons involved. I actually mostly enjoyed this one. 

#4: Memory Man (Amos Decker #1)
David Baldacci

Winner all the way! A high-stakes premise, a main character with an unusual quirk, and a great mystery—Baldacci brings the thrills yet again! A former football player who took his first and last hit as a pro that knocked his brains into super-power mode, so that he cannot forget anything. He becomes a cop, but the stress is too much, so now he just does PI work—until he comes home to find his wife and daughter savagely murdered. Amos Decker is a fascinating character; for some people, perfect memory would be like making them untouchable (like so many shows where the guy pretends to be a psychic or a professional at the job but really it's photographic memory), but for Amos it's the worst curse there is, particularly when the murderer continues killing and blaming him for each one—so it's someone he has met, someone he does remember—but which one? That question kept me reading and guessing the whole time!

#3: Magnus Chase and the Guardians of Asgard: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase #1)
Rick Riordan

Bing-Bang-Boom! A solid winner with plenty to contend with for the rest of the series! I admit, with the bandying about of the name Magnus Chase... I completely forgot that this was also the surname of a character from the Percy Jackson series: namely, Annabeth. Remember her? Well, the daughter of Athena apparently has a cousin who is the son of Frey. And therefore all of Asgard has a bone to pick with him. It's a wild and crazy adventure all around Yggdrasil, with a mute dwarf and his friend who would rather design clothing than forge armor. Not as many "ancient prophecies" as in Percy Jackson, but there are Valkyries to avoid, Thor's hammer is missing, and Loki will try everything to trick Magnus into hastening Ragnarok. Including allowing his daughter to become a Valkyrie so she can be assigned to guarding Magnus. I loved it. Great start to a new series!

#2: Stars Above (Lunar Chronicles #4.5)
Marissa Meyer

OH THE FEELS THIS WAS EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED IN THE LUNAR CHRONICLES!! Granted, it was an anthology of a bunch of short novellas, but they were all brilliant! We get origin stories for Cinder, Wolf, Cress, and Thorne, a sci-fi retelling of The Little Mermaid (a story I am kind of attached to, myself!), and then A FREAKING EPILOGUE TO THE LUNAR CHRONICLES SERIES THAT IS SO ADORABLE I CAN'T EVEN!!! If you've read the series, you HAVE to read this one! Relive the awesome.

#1: Calamity (Reckoners #3)
Brandon Sanderson

YES!! YESS! I mean... What are we talking about here?
Okay, and the Top Of My List goes to Branderson! I have been pining for this book for just about a full year, and it did NOT disappoint! It's a situation that's been building since the very beginning, and an interesting paradigm that isn't seen very often: rather than actually fighting enemies, (or at least some of the time; yeah, there are still enemies, but not at the root of it all) these characters come to realize that they are actually fighting one another. They're fighting the one that's keeping secrets from everyone else. Even the "heroes" aren't impervious to the lure of making damaging choices in the name of "fixing things." David's metaphors have gotten better (only slightly!) and he is finding the answers he's been chasing ever since Steelheart killed his father... And those answers are not quite what he expects. I loved every bit of this book, and absolutely it is the best one I read in this batch!

Stay tuned for my next 10!

Previous Ranked Lists:
List #1
List #2