Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Finished Reading: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #1
by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

I have never read any Harry Potter books, nor have I watched any of the movies. The only thing I know about Harry Potter is what I’ve picked up over the years from references, movie clips, overheard discussions, etc. I am planning to go through the entire book series, and I have just finished the first one. My reviews will likely contain spoilers, as I’m not too worried about avoiding that, with as long as these have been out, and as well known as they are, but I’ll still post a warning with each review, just in case.

I also plan to watch the movies, even though I was recently told that the movies were garbage. The same person also told me that I “just have to get through the first couple of books,” because after that, they get better (for clarification, he might come across kind of mean based on what I’m saying, but he was recommending the books, because he really likes them; he just had some caveats). However, I think he and I have a different taste in books, at least to a degree, because his brief reasoning for the later ones being better was because the first few were written for a younger audience. He said that as the characters aged, the writing was written for an older audience as well. I have always enjoyed things that are meant for teens or young adults though, even as I’ve gotten older.

With that in mind, I can honestly say that, though I saw what he was insinuating, about the book being for a young audience, it didn’t bother me much. I was a bit put off by the early chapters about Harry’s family, not just because of how terrible they were (which was obviously on purpose), but because of the way in which they were described. Definitely very silly and over-the-top. And some of that carried on throughout the book. However, I enjoyed the way the story unfolded all the same.

I appreciated the fact that, even though Harry was the main character and was obviously special in some way, he still had major limitations, which kept him from being too perfect to be real. He excelled in one main area, and I was rooting for him to do well as soon as he found that talent.

One of the things that bothered me the most was that the story seemed to just amble most of the way through the book. The main story goal was brought up now and then, but didn’t seem to take much precedence. Even when the characters spoke about it as if it were important, it didn’t feel all that important most of the time. I think that is mostly because much of this book was world-building. I have done 0 research about how this series got started, but it certainly reads as if Rowling knew it was going to be the first book in a longer series, and kept the story goal simple, so she could focus on setting up Hogwarts and the wizard world.

My other biggest issue is in the actual writing. I’m sure this is just the grammarist in me, and most people wouldn’t even notice, but the amount of commas where there should have been periods, or at least semi-colons, was really noticeable to me. I’d rather not notice those things, but I do…so it tends to take me out of the story.

There were a couple of things that weren’t resolved or explained (or just not explained well) in the book, so I will hope that at least some of these things are fleshed out in future books.

One thing I’ll be interested to see as I go through these books is the way my perception of what might happen could be affected by the knowledge of the storylines that are floating around out there. People don’t worry nearly as much about avoiding spoiling something this old, and I don’t blame them. But because of clips or gifs I’ve seen from the movies, and things I’ve heard about the books, I didn’t really question the story I was being fed while reading. I have no real way of knowing if I would have had my own theories or suspicions as Harry and friends blamed Snape the entire book, but I definitely believed that he was the bad guy the entire time. Thus, I was shocked when it turned out he wasn’t.

One more thing here for the first review of this series–though I’ve not seen the movies, I’ve seen enough to be able to picture most of the bigger characters as their movie versions. As I’ve never been great at drawing my own version of book characters in my heads, I think it will make the books come to life better in my head, so hopefully it will enhance the reading (though again, I have no way of knowing how it would have been without this).

Find out more about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Up next: Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Yellow Lantern

Finished Reading: The Yellow Lantern
by Angie Dicken

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance, crime

The Yellow Lantern: True Colors: Historical Stories of American CrimeIn this book of historical fiction, set in New England just before the beginning of the Victorian Era, a young woman named Josephine Clayton works for a doctor to pay her father’s way out of debtor’s prison. But when Josephine becomes sick and is presumed dead, her buried body is stolen by a man working for the same doctor. The story starts with her waking up, about to be dissected, and when the doctor sees she’s still alive, he plans to dissect her anyway. To save her own life, and to keep her father out of trouble, Josephine ends up embroiled in the doctor’s schemes of body-snatching. She is planted at a cotton mill in the next town over, to spy for the body snatchers and help with the actual snatching. But when the next victim is a loved one of the cotton mill’s manager (named Braham Taylor), a man to whom Josephine has become close, the gruesome business becomes a nightmare.

This book was a decent read overall. The setting was interesting. The bigger side characters had personality. I liked the back-and-forth POV between Josephine (or as we know her through most of the book, Josie) and Braham.

I was usually really happy when it switched back to Braham for a while, which tells me I connected with his character more than with Josie. I think that’s because his troubles seemed a lot more real and understandable to me. But it’s not that Josie doesn’t have serious issues. I just think her storyline was convoluted enough that I was only vaguely aware of the danger or of her reasons for going along with the body snatching plot. Her father was in trouble with…the doctor and some creditors, but I don’t know who they were, or if I’m even right about that. Alvin (Josie’s “handler”) was bad but sort of good (which isn’t bad in itself), but was owed money, yet still chose to hold back the first body he snatched in the story? It wasn’t until near the end that enough of this network of body snatchers was sorted out enough that I was at least able to appreciate the conclusion. This was probably my biggest problem throughout the book.

For the first quarter of the book, at least, I was reminded strongly of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It’s set in a cotton mill, the male lead runs the cotton mill, and the female lead is not terribly happy about coming to the town. It’s also set in a similar time period. I love North and South, so that may have helped draw me into the book at first, but it did veer off to become a vastly different story, and a good one in its own right.

The other big downside, in my opinion, is that the body snatching was really not as big a part of the plot as it seemed like it should be. I mean, it haunted Josie throughout the book, and at the end, we can see an inter-connectedness that we didn’t necessarily know was there sooner, but it was supposed to be a twist, I think, that these things were connected. So they didn’t seem to play into the body snatching plot, except that it was predictable enough that I didn’t really see much shock factor in the reveal. Or maybe it wasn’t supposed to be a surprise, and in that case, it was just kind of bland.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. The book is listed as Christian, and it holds up well in that department. The romance was sweet and clean (just how I like it), and I would recommend this book for fans of Christian romance, though probably not for fans of crime novels.

Thank you to Netgalley and Barbour Publishing, Inc. for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about The Yellow Lantern

Up next: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Illusion

Finished Reading: Illusion
by Frank Peretti

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Christian suspense

When half of a famous, married magical duo dies, the other half (Dane) is left to carry on in whatever way he can. When the wife that died (Mandy) wakes up alive and well, but thinking she’s only 19 and year is 1970, she has to figure out what’s real and what’s imaginary. Then these two meet, and Mandy doesn’t know Dane, while Dane thinks he’s going crazy. What follows is a tale of intrigue, as Dane helps Mandy with a solo magic act, and Mandy tries to understand a mysterious power she seems to have, which makes her magic much more real.

Frank Peretti has long been my favorite author, but there are still several of his books I haven’t read. This is his latest novel, published in 2012, well after I stopped reading regularly. I read the synopsis and immediately put it near the top of my TBR list. And it did not disappoint. I enjoyed the book from the beginning to the end.

I enjoyed watching Mandy’s abilities develop and the mystery surrounding them unfold. The shows she puts on get more and more spectacular, and I’ll admit, I wish I could see the illusions, rather than read about them, but Peretti does a good job of explaining what’s going on, both from the audience’s perspective and from Mandy’s.

The cause of Mandy’s abilities is not left unexplained, and while it gets a bit convoluted for my mind, I still thought it all played together nicely. There are some sci-fi elements that came together in such a way that I really liked (but can’t say more to avoid spoilers).

My main complaint about the book was that the first third, or so, was filled with so many minor characters that came and went, or that were called by one name, then another later (ex. Mr. Jones at first, then Tom later), that I was really confused more than once. I can’t say they weren’t all necessary, or that the change in name use didn’t make sense, but now and then, I would have like a subtle reminder of who someone was when they showed up again after being absent for a few chapters.

The ending was exactly what I wanted it to be and then some! I was just so happy when I finished this book. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys Christian mystery, suspense, or general fiction. Also, the book definitely has a Christian bent, but it’s more in the main characters clearly being Christian and looking to God for help and comfort, then anything preachy.

Find out more about Illusion

Up nextThe Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Strands of Truth

Finished Reading: Strands of Truth
by Colleen Coble

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery, romance

Strands of TruthHarper’s mother died just before Harper was born, and she never knew her father. At the age of 15, a man named Oliver took her under his wing and became like a father to her in many ways. His own children detested Harper, though, because of how much attention their father paid to her, and assuming that Harper was only after their father’s money. As an adult, Harper looks up to Oliver as a mentor, and now works with him as a business partner. At the start of the story, a DNA registry site has found a likely half-sister for Harper, and upon meeting, Harper realizes that both sisters have a similar story, with their mothers dying when they were infants, and neither knowing their father. At the same time, both women become the target of attempted kidnappings. Oliver is also attacked, and his son Ridge is determined to find out why, while also attempting to expose Harper for the fraud he believes her to be.

This book was a jumbled mess, and my mind feels a bit jumbled when trying to organize a review. I will start with what I did like. The premise was intriguing, and the mystery did hold my attention for the first half of the book. The descriptions of the Florida setting were good, and it was easy to imagine a warm, humid environment. The book brought some subjects to my attention that I otherwise might never have known about (for example, sea silk and other things related to pen shells).
However, this also leads me to my first issue. Many things came up in the book that were completely foreign to me, and I was left to figure out on my own what on earth it even was. Or the explanation would come so late that I was confused for a while. At one point early in the book, it says a character was in the “Weeki Wachee parking lot,” but really never actually says what Weeki Wachee is. My first guess was that it was a common supermarket chain in the region. Or maybe restaurant. But after Googling it, it’s apparently a state park and spring in Florida. It would have been really easy to explain this in the book, along with many other things, but instead, I had to Google more than I would prefer while reading a book.
Speaking of Google, there was a lot of mention of food and restaurants in the book that weirdly came across like name-dropping. As if, to make the book feel more authentic to the location, the author had done an internet search for popular restaurants in the real-life town in which the book is set, and even went to the online menus so that the characters could mention specific dishes that really do exist in those restaurants (I looked one up; it’s real!). Maybe this shouldn’t seem like a big deal, but it got to a point where it was just a bit too much, and took me out of the narrative enough to bother me.
And then there was the really weird part where the narration compared the main male character (Ridge) to “Chris McNally from Supernatural a bit, right down to the thick black hair.” I had to stop right there and look him up. I’ve seen Supernatural quite a bit, but I didn’t recognize the name, so I looked him up. He was in two episodes, 6 years apart, as basically bit roles! I have my theory about why Coble included this bit of obscure trivia, but no matter the reason, it was completely out of left field and made no sense. This reference is not going to help anyone envision the character, and to top it off, this still of McNally in Supernatural does not show him with “thick black hair.” This is indicative of what I felt was a greater issue in this book–it really could have done with another round of intensive editing.
This book was half-mystery, half-romance. The mystery half was the only thing that kept me going, because the romance was half-baked at best. For one thing, I really didn’t care about either of the two main characters. I did not connect with them at all. Also, the main characters strongly disliked each other for a while, then started to warm to each other. Then Ridge tells Harper that he misjudged her and wants to start fresh, making it clear that he has some sort of feelings for her. But two days later, she’s panicking over an idea that maybe he just thinks of her as a sister. And since the turn in their relationship came halfway through the story, it was very predictable what the bump in the romance was going to be, and even that turned out to be weakly done.
As for the mystery half of the story, it really fell apart in the 2nd half as well. For one thing, there are flashbacks throughout the book showing the life of a woman who was murdered around 1970 in the year leading up to that event, but by the end of the book, I realized that the flashbacks added basically nothing to the story. Spoiler: And to make things worse, Ridge was able to watch some video taken by the murdered woman, that ended right before the murder. After the video is described, the same moment is shown in a flashback, and it didn’t even match up with the video!
This review is getting very long, so I’ll try to be more brief in the rest of my notes. Clues to the mystery were given in an order that did not maximize suspense for the reader. The main characters investigated more than the authorities (who didn’t really seem all that concerned about the abductions), and yet the main characters are constantly questioning if these obviously related events are even related. Most of the mystery was fairly obvious (to me) early enough in the book to make any twists near the end fall flat. Several things happen that make no sense and are never explained. Spoiler: There’s a bomb that never goes off and is never mentioned again, that I forgot about until right now!

All in all, this half-mystery, half-romance didn’t deliver in either department. And this time, I don’t think I can chalk my biggest issues up to personal preference. The book has many flaws that clearly others were able to overlook, but I couldn’t. I would not be able to recommend this book to anyone, and again I’d state that with further revision, it could have been a much more enjoyable read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Find out more about Strands of Truth
Publication date: September 10, 2019

Up next: Illusion by Frank E. Peretti

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!


Book Review: Lost and Found

Finished Reading: Lost and Found
by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: YA speculative fiction

Lost and Found

Fourteen-year-old Ezekiel Blast has a talent for finding things and knowing who they belong to. Along with this talent comes a strong need to return things to the owner. This has earned him the label of thief by people who assume he stole the items in the first place. Now ostracized by peers and authority figures alike, he is not expecting to be befriended by fellow outcast Beth, who is thirteen, but looks like she’s seven. When he’s asked to use his “micropower” to find a missing girl, Ezekiel initially refuses for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that he finds things, not people. However, with the help of his friend and some others, Ezekiel realizes that there may be more to his micropower than he ever knew.

I was pretty excited when I was approved to read an advance copy of this book, since Orson Scott Card is a big name author. I haven’t read anything else by him (though Ender’s Game is on my TBR short list), but fortunately, I’ve read other reviews that say this isn’t like his other, especially earlier, work. Because this could have turned me off to his writing otherwise. I struggled a lot with various aspects of this book.

My biggest issue was the dialog. Not just the dialog itself, but the way it was framed. I’m a huge dialog person, both in my reading and my writing. And this book was something like 75% dialog. Because outside of the actual events that occurred surrounding the lost girl (and even during that), it felt like the characters were always either standing around or sitting around talking. And there was very little in the way of action happening during the talking, but while this worked in Lock In, it just didn’t work the same in this book. I’m not sure if I can explain why though. Maybe because the MC in Lock In is more of a mind at work, then a physical person? Maybe because it wasn’t 75% of the book?

But then, it might be because of the actual content of the dialog. There was so much snark and snappiness, it was just overwhelming. Almost like it was trying too hard to be witty and intelligent. Most of the characters talked nearly identically, even the minor ones, so it was really difficult to get a sense of who was talking. The only thing that really led me to understand that Ezekiel was particularly smart was that the detective said as much to him. But sometimes, the detective talked just like him, except without the constant need to correct people, so I guess that’s what made Ezekiel smarter? Some dialog scenes actually read as if the characters were doing nothing but one-up’ing each other in being more and more correct about what they were trying to say. And I really didn’t buy either Ezekiel or Beth as early teens due to their dialog.

Ezekiel’s micropower is analyzed to death, right up until the end of the book. On the other hand, a few certain elements (that I won’t detail for the sake of spoilers) were left completely unexplained. And there were certain things that happened in this book that reminded me of my 10-year-old self writing about a girl who got her best friend adopted alongside her simply because she was plucky enough to ask. It just felt a bit too unlikely in several spots (including what would likely be allowed in police work). But maybe Card has done some research and knows some things I don’t (I am definitely not an expert).

As far as the plot goes, it got off to a bit of a slow start, and then started to get interesting. And then went a surprising direction right at about the halfway point, and then became too predictable because of that. I know this is vague, but I don’t want to spoil anything. And a warning: it’s fairly dark and gritty for a YA book, dealing with things like (spoilers) kidnapping of young children, child pornography, parent death, and even one death scene (not a parent) described a bit graphically.

Now, the positives. Because I did give this book some stars. Ezekiel’s dad. I really like seeing a parent portrayed in such a great light, especially a father, because let’s face it, they’re pretty beat up in fiction of various mediums these days. I also liked the way the detective treated Ezekiel, for the most part, outside of the unlikely things. I really did like the premise, and even the plot, for the first half of the book. Then it felt like a rinse and repeat for the second half.

I struggled with how many stars to give this book. While I was reading it, I was hovering around 3-3.5. But by the end, I couldn’t figure out what I was seeing that gave it even that much redeeming value. I hate writing a review like this, and I will sum up by saying that a lot of this is personal preference. But it really didn’t suit my preference. I think there are plenty of people who would enjoy the quick, snarky dialog though, considering that the writing actually reminded me of a few people I know. So for those who enjoy that type of writing, it’s probably worth a read.

Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Lost and Found
Publication date: September 10, 2019

Up next: Strands of Truth by Colleen Coble

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: August Review

In my second month of reading with more intention, I picked up the pace at first, and then seemed to slow back down at the end of the month. Now that school has started (I homeschool), it remains to be seen how much time I have to read, but I will definitely make as much time for it as I can.

Here are the books I read in August:
The Curious Conspiracy on Gamma Ceti by Nemo West (2.5 / 5)
Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker (1.5 / 5)
Thr3e by Ted Dekker (4.5 / 5)
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (4 / 5)
Tilly by Frank E. Peretti (3.5 / 5)
Lock In by John Scalzi (4.5 / 5)
#NotReadyToDie by Cate Carlyle (2.5 / 5)
The Inquisition
by Taran Matharu (4 / 5)
Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card (2.5 / 5) (review pending)
Illusion by Frank E. Peretti (5 / 5) (review pending)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (review & rating pending)

This list includes 5 ARCs, my first ever, and 1 re-read. My favorite book from August was Illusion. The rest of reviews from last month will go up in the next week and a half. My ever-changing list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that. (Note: The list of books I have read overall is not remotely complete there. When I created my Goodreads page 4 years ago, I added some of my favorite books over the years, but to add everything I’ve ever read would be very time-consuming, not to mention impossible to remember it all.)

Despite my almost too-long list of TBRs, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book vs. Movie: Thr3e

3 movie vs book

This movie originally came out in 2006. I watched it in the theater, but I don’t actually remember much about it. I’ve had the DVD for years, and only re-watched it recently after re-reading the book for the first time in over 10 years. It was…not great, unfortunately. Part of that is the curse of most faith-based movies, where the production quality isn’t what we normally look for. For example, even though several of the actors I’ve seen in other things (like Marc Blucas), and they were perfectly fine in those other things, most of the acting seemed stiff.

Past that, I had some notes about things that were different from the book that I felt detracted from the story, one that I liked in the movie, and one that was mostly neutral. Fair warning, the rest of this post will be full of spoilers!

Continue reading

Book Review: The Inquisition

Finished Reading: The Inquisition
Trilogy #2
by Taran Matharu

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA Fantasy

The Inquisition

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the trilogy, The Novice.

The Inquisition picks up a year after the previous story’s end, finding Fletcher in jail, where he’s been the entire year. Some life-changing events are tied up in the trial, and before we know it, Fletcher is being sent to the jungles to help lead a covert mission of rescue and destroy (not necessarily in that order). Fletcher has to work with his friends and enemies, and keep his wits about him when things aren’t what they seem.

I enjoyed this book at least as much as the first book. Fletcher’s abilities were established, and in fact had grown between books. Old friendships and rivalries came back into play, as well as some new characters to love. The species & class warfare are still involved, and in the case of race warfare, even more so.

I wasn’t super excited about the beginning of the book, knowing that Fletcher would be in jail, and that the people with all the power would make it very difficult for him to prove himself innocent. They did that and then some. Of course, I knew he’d either be exonerated or escape, because otherwise, there’d be no rest of the book. And with the end of his prison time came a big turn-around for his life.

The rest of the book, which was preparation for and executing of the covert mission into orc territory, was interesting and, at times, exciting. A few things happened that led me to notice that Fletcher, in both books, has a tendency to fall into a trope where good things happen to him simply because he’s a nice guy. Learning important information, chance encounters, unlikely allies, things like that. I am not trying to say this is a bad trope–it never bothered me when it happened, but it was a trend I noticed.

There were a few things that happened near the end that are a twist of some kind. One of them I figured out early. One I kept speculating on, and turned out to be wrong. And one, the way the book ends, in fact, I did not see coming at all. Unlike the cliffhanger from book 1 to book 2, I’m very excited to see how book 3 picks up from where this one left off.

Find out more about The Inquisition

Up next: Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: #NotReadyToDie

Finished Reading: #NotReadyToDie
by Cate Carlyle

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: YA suspense

#notreadytodieA school shooting at a high school in Canada is shown from the perspective of one of the students. She’s forced to think past her perceptions of other students to do the best she can to help others trapped in the classroom with her.

I didn’t find very many redeeming qualities about this book. My favorite thing about the book was the way that each chapter ended with a tweet from various sources–usually either the local news station or one of the students in the school. I liked reading the updates as time went on (and missed them when they weren’t there), though I wished I could see reactions from the characters to some of them. They were mostly removed from the narrative. The writing was clear and easy to follow. And I liked the relationship between the narrator, Ginny, and her mom. That’s the extent of my positive notes. These are the main reasons I gave the book 2.5 stars.

There was a secondary main character named Kayla who, frankly, would have made a much better main character. She was compassionate, brave, forgiving, and had knowledge of medicine. I don’t mean to say side characters can’t be better at anything than the main character, of course, but in contrast, Ginny was judgemental, a bit harsh, and too often focused on the entirely wrong things during this crisis. The main character doesn’t have to be the “best,” but for a story to land well, it certainly helps for the reader to be able to identify with the MC…and I just didn’t. Ginny spends the entire book calling Kayla by an insulting nickname, but it’s okay, because she says it “with love” after the two start to become friends. Just…no. There are other things that happen with Ginny that either don’t make sense to her character or are pretty big personality flaws.

And speaking of characters, the book is so full of cliches. In the classroom during the lockdown, there are only 3 main groups of people identified: jocks, cheerleaders, and nerds. I get the over-simplification of background characters in a setting like this, but maybe go against the trend of those commonly used groups? The main person who acts selfishly and is disliked by the MCs is a jock. Maybe change it up, make him something less cliched.

This might count as a spoiler, so be warned, but one specific thing that really bugged me was later in the book, Ginny makes a comment about one of the other students that leads Kayla to tell her maybe she should work on not judging people so much. After initially snarking back to Kayla about this comment, she admits to the reader that Kayla had been right (yeah, we know…considering that you have been calling Kayla, who is supposedly becoming your friend now, “Barbie” since the beginning of the book). Then later, when talking about the “jerk jock”, we’re told that Ginny prides herself on having a pretty good feel for people. Except she’s spent half the book finding out that she’s misjudged at least 3 different people in her class. But since we all agree that the jerk jock is a bad guy, I guess we’ll let that little contradiction slide.

Here are a few other stray thoughts, which contain some spoilers (which I’ll try to cover with black): From my limited knowledge, I’m pretty sure most school shootings are a lot shorter than the time it went on for in this book. The shooter weirdly taunted this classroom, which I never really understood. There wasn’t much suspense for me, considering the final chapter title, the book’s POV and tense, and the fact that I wasn’t really connected to the MC (note: I am not at all saying that I didn’t care if she died, especially considering the subject matter of this book). Finally, I don’t think it would have bothered me to not be told the motivations behind the shooting if the students hadn’t speculated on it so much along the way. Because of that, I did find myself wanting to know, which we don’t find out. I know that the motivations aren’t always clear in real life either, but this is fiction, so I would have hoped for at least a more definitive speculation from someone in authority by the end.

The subject of a school shooting intrigued me, which is why I chose to read this book. Though I know there are other books like this out there, I haven’t read any. However, so much of the characterization was just so off to me, I had a difficult time finding it very much of an exploration into the minds of students in this terrible situation. I don’t think I can come up with any types of readers I would specifically recommend this book to. It was short, so I should have read it much more quickly than I did, but instead found myself stopping and going back to my other book that I was really enjoying, and it’s not because of the difficult subject, but because…it just didn’t hold my attention very well.

Thank you to Netgalley and Common Deer Press for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about #NotReadyToDie
Publication date: October 1, 2019

Up next: The Inquisition by Taran Matharu

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Lock In

Finished Reading: Lock In
by John Scalzi

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Sci-Fi mystery

Lock In

In the near future, a disease ravages humanity, leaving a large population of Earth completely paralyzed. In the time period of Lock In, technology has been developed to allow those “locked in” to live as normally as possible, either putting their consciousness into a robotic being, or into the mind of someone who has the ability to accept the mind of someone else. Set against this backdrop, the book is a mystery that starts with a murder, but deepens continually as the story goes on.

I wasn’t really expecting to like this book that much, though I don’t know why. However, I ended up liking it a lot. The sci-fi element, mainly the roles the Hadens (those who were locked in) and the Integrators (those who could let a Haden use their mind & body) played in the mystery, really enhanced the mystery plot.

The main character, Chris Shane, is a Haden and an FBI agent, who interacts with the physical world in what they call a “threep” (basically a robot that is controlled by a Haden’s consciousness). In a lot of ways, the book was similar in this area to Ready Player One, which I only read recently, so it was fresh in my mind. I was interested reading about the laws surrounding Hadens and their threeps, when it comes to crimes committed both by and against them. I also enjoyed the main character’s intelligence, ingenuity, and stoicism.

Another thing that I found myself appreciating throughout the book was the writing style. There is not a lot of description or figurative language, which to my taste, at least, can slow a story down or add unnecessary filler. There were even times that I would read through an entire page and get this feeling in the back of my mind that I’d skipped some text (I do that sometimes, essentially accidentally skimming for a bit before deciding I need to go back), but when I’d go back to try to find what I’d skipped over, there was nothing. Conversations flowed quickly, with little in the way of descriptions of what the characters were doing. Some may find this a flaw, but I personally liked it. If the characters aren’t really doing anything but sitting and talking…maybe sometimes it’s okay to not add minor actions in just because. I usually write dialog this way too, but end up going back and adding more in, because I feel like it’s expected.

Scalzi’s world-building was brilliant too, from following the progression of politics, laws, and citizen response brought on by Haden’s syndrome in America, to the slang and lingo that seemed so natural in this world. My main detraction in the book is involved in this area though. At one point in the last quarter of the book, a side character who is an expert in a field that is needed for the investigation spends about 10 pages explaining some technological and coding mumbo jumbo that I had a difficult time wading through and understanding. I was at least able to come away with some idea of what was going on, though, so it didn’t cause enough problem for me to be more than a short frustration. I also feel it prudent to mention that there was a lot more language than I prefer.

I had seen that there is a follow-up to this novel when I wasn’t even halfway into reading it yet, and I didn’t expect to have much desire to read it. However, by the end of the book, I knew I had to read Head On at some point soon!

I would recommend Lock In for fans of near-future sci-fi and for mystery lovers too.

Find out more about Lock In

Up next#NotReadyToDie by Cate Carlyle

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!